Thursday, November 29, 2012

Ten predictions about the Obama/Romney lunch today:

1. There will be no alcohol served and Mr. Romney will not drink anything caffeinated. President Obama may or
may not have iced tea.
2. They will be using knives and forks. This prediction may be expanded to include spoons should they be served soup. There is a very small possibility of chop stick usage, but that would be only if they were served Asian food and the chances of that are highly unlikely.
3. The quality of the food will probably be very high. The White House has a very busy kitchen with a professional chef. They pride themselves on fine meals. My thought is that this will be true for today.
4. Cloth napkins will probably be used and worn on laps. It is possible that one of them tucks in in his shirt as a bib, I find this highly unlikely.
5. There will be no public displays of loud flatulence of any kind . Both men will want to be on their best behavior and a flatulence contest would probably be seen as uncouth. True Mr. Romney is smarting at the loss and would probably like to win some sort of contest, but this does not seem likely.
6. They will not have a basketball game of one on one right afterwards, and if they do, it won't be a 'shirts and skins' kind of game with one player wearing a shirt and the other not. Mostly this is done to allow teams to distinguish who is on which team, but I doubt they will even play.
7. Should dessert be Oreo cookies, and should milk be served, neither man will choose to dunk. Secretly, they will be resentful because they really want to dunk, but neither man will.
8. They will not have a food right. Perhaps their favorite movie was, in fact, "Animal House,' and perhaps their greatest desire in life is to start a food fight ala John Belushi in said movie, they will choose not to do so.
9. They will be very careful as to not spill food on themselves. Neither man wants to be photographed afterwards with a gravy spot on his shirt.
10. They will dine at a table. They will not be eating in recliners watching the NFL Network while eating lunch.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

UFO Author and Jesus

A man named Lou Baldin has written a book that I am not going to purchase or read.  His premise is that Jesus and the story of Jesus was a hoax by the Jewish community at the time to make Christians the focus of Roman wrath instead of Judaism.  The hoax worked so well that eventually many people believed it and Christianity was named the religion of the Roman Empire.

I decided to do a little bit of research about Lou Baldin to see what his background was.  I was wondering if he was a disenfranchised theologian or someone promoting some other religion.  He wasn’t either.  He is primarily an author about UFOs.  

Okay, before you tell me that I am being narrow minded about UFOs I’m not really.  I’m pretty indifferent to much of the material about UFOs.  When I was in grade school I had everyone in my class very excited about the picture I took of an unidentified pie plate that I had tossed into the air.  I told everyone that I had taken that very exciting picture—with my 1964-1965 Commemorative World’s Fair camera.  The pie, a lemon pie, was mediocre, but my picture was pretty convincing and the story I wove was very good.  Even my teacher thought it was fun, with a smile on her face and the wink in her eye.

Which brings me back to Lou Balden.   For some bizarre reason I have a very difficult time taking a person seriously in the realm of theological thought when that author’s primary vocation has been writing about UFOs.  I say this not just because Lou Balden write about UFOs.  If Anthony Bourdain wrote a book questioning the existence of Jesus, I’d have comparable cautions.  Bourdain write about restaurants and food, I take him seriously.  About Jesus, not so much.  Bourdain, I actually do take seriously in his writings.  Balden.  Okay, I’ll be honest, I think he’s loopy.

I get tired of people writing about Jesus.  This may sound odd, but many of the people write about Jesus for some very unusual reasons.  Jesus often gets morphed into the image and likeness of and needs of the authors rather than people reflecting on who and what Jesus actually was and is.  It is just beyond the election and we all were serenaded with joyful demonstrations of Jesus being a good Republican and Jesus being a good Democrat.  I suspect that neither party would have really wanted Jesus to speak at their conventions.  Personally, I found many people to be offensive in their worldview of Jesus and their own political beliefs.  There is some flexibility in how one interprets the Bible and the words and deeds of Jesus.  There is some flexibility in terms of what we believe divinity means.  However, to completely morph Jesus into something or someone else completely new?  Not so much.

One person who reviewed Balden’s latest book said that Balden is getting away from UFOs and finally playing it straight as an author.  I beg to differ.  He’s still loopy.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Reflecting on the Greatest Generation


Tom Brokaw named the World War II generation The Greatest Generation, and there is still much discussion about this.  I’ve been reading a bit on the subject and have some thoughts.

On one hand, I am reticent in calling any generation ‘greatest’ as all generations have their virtues and vices.  This particular generation, however, may, in fact, be worthy of the title.

They had flaws.  It was in this generation that we were subjected to likes of Joe McCarthy, racism, and sexism.  The world, however, has changed and, I suspect, those changes became possible because the World War II generation set the table for them.

This was the generation that survived the Great Depression.  They were the generation that fought World War II.  World War II saw the world change faster than any other time in history.

When the war began it began with two great military super powers, Germany and Japan.  The Soviet Union, in 1939 had a large miliary but it was very poorly trained and poorly equipped.  Western European powers were not as strong as they would have liked to believe and the United States was not a super power.  When Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939 the United States Army was small and not that well equipped.  The Navy had a minimal force, as did the Marines.  The Air Force was a part of the Army and had some excellent bomber technology but very obsolete fighter planes. 

When World War II began, many nations still were using biplanes.  Many were using horses to carry soldiers and equipment.  When Germany invaded Poland with tanks, the Poles gallantly attacked the tanks on horse back with long spears.  The slaughter was awful.

By the end of the war, jets were in the sky, guided missiles were flying, and the nuclear age began.  People became proficient at killing and the results were dreadful.

Within the United States many went to war and many others went to build weapons for the war.  No new automobiles were built.  Gasoline was scarce and rationed.  Chocolate was strictly used to feed soldiers as a specially fortified battlefield food.  Fresh meat, fresh fruit, and fresh vegetables were not available unless you raised it or grew it yourself.  People sacrificed.

The war was expensive and people purchased war bonds to help fund the war.

But this generation did something very unusual.  After the war, they saw the wisdom in rebuilding the nations of Germany and Japan.  The wisdom of this remains to this day when we see Germany and Japan as allies, trading partners, and friends.  This is a generation that developed Medicare, transitioned and supported civil rights, and took care of one another.  They were and remain a generation of people who believed in duty, personal responsibility, responsibility for the care of others, honor, and faith.  This generation built schools, hospitals, churches, and the Interstate High way system under President Eisenhower.  When President Kennedy said those immortal words, “Ask not what your country and do for you, but what you can do for your country,” he was saying words not of a political party, but as a person of this generation.  This was a generation that saw personal sacrifice and generosity as virtues, not vices.  The American government was different with these people.  In foxholes in Europe and the Pacific soldiers shared everything they had with people they didn’t agree with because they knew their comrades in arms were not their enemy, but fellow citizens.  Washington DC was led by people who cared for country over party, other over self.

What is remarkable is that they did so humbly.  No one extolled his or her virtues; over-flamboyance and braggadocio were not part of the equation.

They were a generation that came from hardship and overcame it and nurtured so many of us.  Their character should not be forgotten or ignored.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Finding Gratitude


Sometimes we have a difficult time finding gratitude. There is often much to gripe about.

The recent elections left some people filled with gratitude and others were distressed at the outcome. There was a lot of gloating by some (too much by too many) and a great deal of gloom by some (too much by too many) and the nation reflected that. In reality, if people look closely, there is probably room for everyone to be happy about some things and distressed about other things. Unless we vote for every winner, no one gets everything he or she wants.

This is true of life. No one gets everything they want. Health can be better for many; jobs can be better; family life can be better; the weather can be better. The list goes on and on. No one’s life is perfect.

Something dawned on me a few weeks ago. I couldn’t find anything I wanted to watch on television and I muttered to myself, “There’s nothing on.”

I have DirectTV and I love it. I have hundreds of channels. I can pretty much watch anything on any topic I want. This includes the free period of a large number of premium channels. I also have a wealth of On Demand shows that I can watch. I even have a queue of shows I have recorded, waiting to be seen. And I sat there and said, “There’s nothing on.”

When I was growing up I was in New Jersey and we had a lot more channels than most of the nation. We had 2,4, and 7, the major networks. There were also 5, 9, and 11, which were local New York stations, and PBS on 13. In the 1960’ have seven stations was unheard of in most of the country. We’d complain there was ‘nothing on’ then, and, at least the lineup was a lot smaller.

But now, who the heck am I to complain about there being ‘nothing on.’ Talk about nonsense!

We whine a lot as a society. We truly do. If things are not perfect, we whine. If things don’t go the way we want them to go, we whine. It’s not because we are bad people and it’s not because of the sinfulness of people, it’s more in the fact that we are spoiled. Life is actually easier and better than it used to be. People often talk about how amazing doctors were in the 1950’s and 1960’s and often how above reproach they were. In reality, physicians are so much better now and can do so much more. Look at the life expectancy of people!

Yet, we are often so ungrateful. Again, if it’s not perfect….

At Thanksgiving I often think of the Pilgrims. Perhaps that sounds corny, but I do think of them. The first ‘feast’ was not what we will be eating on Thursday. If they had turkey, it was a small, tough bird. There was probably other wild game. There was probably venison and clams and lobsters. Alas, there was also no butter…

There was probably something that could best be described as an ‘innards pie.’ This would have been a pie with cooked organs of animals. In those days nothing on the animal ever went to waste. And before you say you wouldn’t have eaten the ‘innards pie,’ people did not pass the mashed potatoes in those days. The ‘passing’ of food around the table was a custom that came into effect much later. The ‘best’ food was placed near the most important people. If you had no status, were a child, or a woman, you were eating the innards.

There was something else missing from the meal. They had no sugar. If they ate pumpkins or cranberries, there was no sugar to make dessert. They would have used honey or dried fruit to sweeten things. Sugar didn’t come to much later.

Yet, they were filled with gratitude for what little they had. When you have very little to share, there is always much to go around; and a great deal of gratitude for what little there is.

Enjoy Thanksgiving this year----and don’t complain. Delight in what we really have and be grateful for the abundance we do have.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Monday Football Observations.

The Patriots lost Ron Gronkowski, their all-world Tight End on the extra-point, getting their 59th point of the game. They played classlessly, running up the score and are now going to pay for it.

The Broncos are the best team in the AFC. They have the best defense and Peyton Manning. They are going to roll through the rest of the season and be a major force in the play offs.

Andrew Luck had a bad game on Sunday but has played really well for the Colts. I have only one clip_image002

suggestion for him, however. Shave. You look ridiculous. Or grow a full beard. Whatever you are doing right now does not work.

The Giants were fortunate on Sunday. They simply had no way of losing. They had their bye. Of late, the way Eli Manning has been pass, he couldn’t hit the water if he fell out of the boat.

The issue with the Jets and players bashing Tim Tebow. This is the result of a poor coach who has lost control of his locker room and his players. Rex Ryan is too impressed with Rex Ryan and not good at making a team a team.

Andy Reid’s tenure in Philadelphia is about over. The Eagles are an arch-rival to the Giants and I do not like them, but Andy Reid is one of the best coaches in the NFL. This was a team that was assembled with a lot of talent and, sadly, little ability for the egos of the players to play well together. Someone else will sign Reid and he’ll be a great coach.

RG3. Wow.

The Saints are playing very, very well. Drew Brees is an outstanding quarterback and their defense is starting to play well. It took the defensive players a while to understand the schemes of Steve Spagnuolo, but he’s one of the best defensive coaches in the NFL. Gregg Williams taught thuggery to the players; Spags is teaching them to play the game properly.

Has anyone else noted that the commercial with Papa John and Peyton Manning makes Papa John look cheap and petty? Or is it just me? As an aside, I’m not going to get one of the free 2 million pizzas he is giving away. It’s not a political statement on my part; Papa John’s pizza is actually pretty lousy.

Steelers quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, is probably going to miss at least three more weeks. He’s tough but he really got hurt.

Speaking of the Steelers, as an aside, your jailbreak uniforms are amazingly ugly. Match that with Andrew Luck’s neck beard and this is not a good year for fashion in the NFL…

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Pew Forum Results are Troubling

Not long ago the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life did a Religious Knowledge Survey with 32 questions. The average number of correct answers across all groups was an average of 16 of those 32 questions answered accurately.

The numbers are fascinating. Each number represents the number of questions answered accurately from that group:

Jewish 20.5

Mormon 20.3

Atheists/Agnostics 20.0

White Evan. Protestant 17.6

White Roman Catholic 16.0

White Main Protestant 15.8

Nothing in part 15.2

Black Protestant 13.4

Hispanic Roman Catholic 11.6

In terms of religious knowledge, the people who are the most knowledgeable about religion, and considering that most of the Pew Forum questions were about Christianity, the most knowledgeable about traditional Christianity, were the people who are Jewish, Mormon, or Atheist/Agnostic.

These are an interesting top three. People who are Jewish are, of course, not Christians. The core of Christianity is that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, and Judaism rejects this. Atheists and Agnostics do not believe or seriously question any sort of divine being.

Mormons are part of the Church of Jesus Christ and the Latter Day Saints. Mormons do believe in the divinity of Christ and very much consider themselves to be Christians. Without attempting to be controversial or affirm or repudiate their beliefs, much of Christianity is affirmed by the people within it and if Mormons consider themselves to be a part of Christianity, it is not for anyone to say otherwise. It would be fair to say, however, and again, this is not criticism, many of their beliefs are pretty different from much of Christianity.

One thing is for sure, the people who are not mainstreamed within Christianity, know more about Christianity than those who are in the mainstream.

It can be contended that, as Christianity has shrunk dramatically over the years, that a lack of knowledge has played a role in this. People simply do not know much about their faith. There are, I believe, some reasons for this.

First, I suspect many Christians live in something of a bubble in terms of their own faith tradition. They are aware what their church teaches, but are not very curious as to what other churches teach. They often are unaware of what other traditions teach and do, and presume they do know.

I have lived in the Roman Catholic bubble and the Mainline Protestant bubble. I have learned that the Protestant perspective of Roman Catholicism, and Roman Catholicism are very different. I’ve also learned that the Roman Catholic perspective of Protestant is different from the Protestant perspective.

I recently read an article from a Roman Catholic blogger who was writing about the failure of the Protestant Reformation. He knew a great deal of the Roman Catholic perspective of Protestantism, but didn’t really understand the tradition. He THOUGHT he did, but he didn’t. One thing he grossly failed at what recognizing that there is not one Protestant perspective on things. His being trapped in the Bible caught him.

It works the other way around as well. The average person within Protestantism does not understand the Roman Catholic perspective on Sacramental Theology and Holy Communion. Ironically, part of that lack of understanding comes from not knowing they do not understand.

Bubbles can trap us.

A second thing is that we often lack the curiosity to neither learn nor take the time to learn. I know many churches from all traditions work hard to educate everyone. I have never known a pastor who was unwilling to lead a class when asked. Yet, that is rarely asked of clergy. It should be.

A third thing is often clergy. If people fail to do continuing education, read, and grow in their own knowledge, they fail as leaders of knowledge.

People need, in my humble opinion, to take the time to learn what their faith teaches, but also have open hearts and minds to learn what other people believe and teach. We will all find we are a lot closer to one another than we often thought.

Einstein was Right!


Enjoying time at the coffee shop



Enjoying Dinner with friends


Art Museum

Enjoying a day at the art museum


Coffee shp

Enjoying lunch with a friend


Enjoying a beautiful day at the beach

basket ball

Having fun at a basketball game


Enjoying a romantic date



In the car with friends


Albert Einstein:
"I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction, the world will have a generation of IDIOTS."

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Sermon Audio November 11, 2012


Delighting in Reaching Within to Grow in Discipleship

Text:  Mark 12:38-44

Rev. Dr. John E. Manzo

November 11, 2012



Stewardship Moment Amy Schneidau


Secession is Better Than Working Together?

There are some interesting developments taking place. Petitions have been filed for Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas and these petitions are to secede from the United States. If a petition receives at least 25,000 in a 30 day period, it must be met with an official response from the White House.

clip_image002A North Carolina Tea Party group is promoting the idea of secession as a solution to the “tyranny of national government.” This idea is being actively promoted on the website ‘’ One can only guess they do not like the results of the election. There have been mixed reports, but many of these petitions seem to have at least some Tea Party support and there is information on how to send these petitions on Tea Party websites, but, as of yet, the Tea Party has not officially endorsed this idea.  There seems to be an idea that secession is better than working together.  I think people need to rethink this idea.

The original ‘tea’ action took place in 1773 in response to the British “Tea Act,” and took place when 30-40 Bostonians dressed as Mohawk Indians, and boarded an English vessel and destroyed the shipment of tea. It was referred to as the tea destruction until the "Boston Tea Party,” became its moniker in 1834. To us in 2012 these original Bostonians are called patriots; to the legal authorities in 1773 they were terrorists or thugs. There was, of course, an escalation of rebellion, the Battle of Concord in 1775 that began the war, the American Revolution. The war waged in until 1783.

The American Revolution was not the war many people perceive it to be. It was not a grand and glorious crusade. It was long and bitter. The British actually won most of the battles. There were some amazing Colonial victories and the war became untenable for England. It proved to be too long, too expensive, and too risky for them when France got involved. It was a war of attrition and the distance, expense, and stretching out of forces was untenable. This ended up being a secession that worked.

In 1861 there was a new revolt, a new American Revolution. We call it the Civil War, but, not unlike the original secession a group of people rebelled and this time the original nation prevailed. This war was incredibly savage and, like the original rebellion of 1775 it was a war of attrition. This time the dominant force, however, had a large number of people and did not have to depend on shipments from across the ocean. The northern part of the country had the industry and larger population base and the end was inevitable once the military leadership problems of the Union Army were resolved.

As I look at the current state of our nation, it is impossible for me to view the current Tea Party people as even remotely being ‘patriots.’ They like to call themselves patriots, but co-opting a name does not make something so. The original people of the Boston Tea Party put themselves in legal risk and were, legally, beginning the process of treason. They put themselves, knowingly, in serious risk of being captured and hanged. They became, through the lens of history, patriots. Putting a hat on your head and covering with tea bags does not make one a patriot.

The original people in the Boston Tea Party were not bemoaning the fact that they had lost an election. They did not have the ability to vote for their leaders. The King of England was not an elected position and the Colonies did not have representation in Parliament. The United States still has elections! Sometimes the people we support win those elections; sometimes they lose. The American Way, if there is such a thing, is to respect and abide by election results. It is not taking one’s toys home and leaving.

There is also an issue of pragmatism.

Do the states that leave now pay the American government for the Interstate highway systems running through their nations?

Airports are under Federal protection. States are under the protection of the Secret Service for their money; the FBI for numerous crimes; the United States Military for protection. All these are lost. Corporations that have been entirely national to this point now have to become international. People within the newly independent states now lose Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. People in nursing homes will be forced out of the nursing homes because of the collapse of Medicaid. Many people do not realize it but 50% of Medicaid is covering people staying in nursing homes.

There are times I get infuriated at our nation. I am sure everyone does. But we are all in this great experiment together. Secession because one does not like the direction the nation is taking, a direction voted on by the majority of people, does not give one a right to carve the nation into pieces. That is not patriotism.

Many of the people behind the American Revolution were the finest minds this nation has ever assembled in the same place at the same time. They became the architects of a democracy. They were not sore losers wearing tea bags on their heads, decreeing they were patriots. These people WERE patriots. These were people who had prices on their heads; these were people who were willing to die for their beliefs.

I’m tired of the whining. Our nation has issues. Instead of whining that a person you don’t like won the election learn to accept that we don’t always get our own way, and make the best of it. Better yet, do something constructive to assure the United States is a great nation.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

A Surprisingly Stunned Concession Speech and Why Gil Grissom is Always Right


As I write this I want to make something clear.  This is not a partisan post stating who was the better candidate and why the election was one or lost.  There was a significant piece of this election, however, that seems to have gone unnoticed.

On Tuesday night Governor Mitt Romney gave a stunned concession speech.  He had stated earlier in the day that the only speech he had written was an acceptance speech.  This was not bravado.  He truly believed that he was going to win the election.  He and Paul Ryan had worked hard and many of the people they had surrounded themselves with had assured both of them they were going to win the election.

They were highly confidence.  They even had a rally in Pennsylvania because they had been told that state was teetering toward them and all it needed was a little nudge.  Dick Morris said it was going to be a landslide, going toward them.  Talk radio hosts were brimming with confidence, even bravado.  The people around the Romney and Ryan Campaign were assuring the two candidates that they had this one in the bag.

It all was, to use an old cliche, a lot of happy talk. 

The problem was that the people around the Romney and Ryan Campaign were looking at a lot of hypotheses and ideological perspectives and were seeing the results that they wanted to see.  They had become so adept at this, however, they missed something.  The numbers indicated otherwise.

Nate Silver is a statistician, an expert in sabermetrics which is  is the specialized analysis of baseball through objective evidence, especially baseball statistics that measure in-game activity, and practicioner of psephology which is a branch of political science which deals with the study and scientific analysis of elections.  In short, Silver deals extensively with the obscure practice of the most finite methods if probability and statistics.  Silver predicted on the weekend before the election that there was better than a 90% chance that President Obama was going to win the election.  Silver predicted the states that would be blue and the states that would be red, and his predictions were made well in advance of the election.

Silver blogs on the New York Times website, or is at least hosted by them.  Silver was dismissed because the Times hosted his blog and the presumption was that Silver’s predictions were politically biased.  They weren’t.

Silver never looked at the issues and never made any predictions based on what he felt about each candidate.  In fact no one knows who he was planning on voting for or if he even voted.  Silver has had nothing to say about the issues or the policies of either party or either candidate.  He based everything on a deep, deep analysis of the polls.

In short, Silver made a prediction on facts.  Probability is a science based on what will probably happen as opposed to what was certain.  Silver was very clear on that.  There are always uncertainties, last minute changes, voter turn out projections that are wrong.  But these uncertainties are often not a big factor and so Silver made a prediction based entirely on the evidence placed before him.

Which brings me to Gil Grissom.  Gil Grissom was the head CSI on the television show CSI.  Grissom, like Silver, is a nerd.  Grissom would always drive the other people crazy because he didn’t go after who he projected the criminal was, he had one mantra, ‘follow the evidence.’  Grissom was a fiend about assuring they followed the facts rather than gut instincts.  The gut, he would tell people, leads people where they want to go as opposed to where the evidence will lead them.  Grissom, at least in the world of television, was always right.  The evidence always leads us to the right answer.

Silver is a modern day Gil Grissom.  He predicted 2008 perfectly.  He also predicted 2010 perfectly.  His predictions on which states would be blue and which would be red were 100% accurate.

People who read Silver’s blog had a strong conviction the election was going to fall the way it did.  The people around the Romney and Ryan Campaign kept assuring the candidate that Silver was a crazy liberal who was way wrong.  Reality is, no one knows what Silver believes----it doesn’t matter.  He follows only facts.

This led to a surprising concession speech.  Mr. Romney believed, down deep, he was going to win this election and making this speech, a very, very gracious speech, was probably the most difficult thing he had ever done.

It may be a reminder to us that the Gil Grissoms and the Nate Silvers in this world, these scientific nerd types, are worth listening to as they provide us with information that is real as opposed to happy talk.

Reality is sometimes painful, but it is always real.  To his credit, Mr. Romney recognized reality in the end, conceded the election, and very graciously congratulated the winner and very generously offered his prayers.  It was, for him, a moment of humility and irony; a life long numbers man lost an election because of the numbers.  Gil Grissom is always right.  The evidence always tells us what is real.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Election Observations

I’m still thinking this election was The Seinfeld Show of elections.  It was, at its core, an election about nothing.  The larger issues of our day were not addressed by either party or either candidate.  There are some things I did observe.

First, Nate Silver of the New York Times had the most insight into the election of anyone.  Silver used polling data that he viewed as reliable and was a fearless numbers cruncher.  He based his conclusions on facts as opposed to ideology and he was right.  So many pundits were off because they were seeing what they wanted to see as opposed to what was really there.  Silver followed the rule of Grissom, “Follow the evidence.”

Mitt Romney, but even more especially, Ann Romney looked defeated and exhausted Tuesday night.  An election makes a person move at 100 MPH for months and at the end it’s an even faster and more frantic pace.  People run on pure adrenalin for a long time, but when it’s over, it’s over.   And when you lose, it’s really over and positively crushing.

A staggering number of people still do not believe President Obama was born in the United States and that he is a Muslim.  He was, and he’s not.  To believe otherwise is simply ignorant.  Seriously, it is ignorant.  You may disagree with the man all you want, but don’t be a fool.

An obscene amount of money was spent on this election.  It was spent in different ways.  One campaign used much of it on commercials and the other used it on what the media calls, the ground game.  It turned out that the ground game was the better option----that an social media and direct marketing on the Internet.  Karl Rove who was so clever in running elections in the past was amazingly ineffective this time with his Super PAC.  Much has been made of Karl Rover’s ‘meltdown’ on Fox News.  It was a $300,000,000.00 breakdown and very much a reality that many people who invested in him will no longer do so.

The country is badly divided.  It has been badly divided for a long time and things have only gotten worse.  The divides are very much present between the rich and the poor; the urban and the rural; small town and suburbs; men and women; young and old; and, of course, racially.  We cannot overlook the racial divide in the country.  Stating this does not mean that I am even remotely suggesting that voting against President Obama was a racist thing to do.  Not even close.  There are, of course, people who voted racially on both sides, but racism is not the bigger factor here.  The bigger factor is very much evident in the remarks of a Republican strategist who said that the Republicans are viewing the nation of Mad Men and the Democrats are viewing the world of Modern Family. 

Here’s another thing.  The American population voted who they wanted in office.  This means that people chose, very deliberately, to have Barack Obama as the President and not Mitt Romney.  They chose the people they wanted in the Senate over the people they didn’t want; keeping it in the hands of the Democrats.  People also chose a majority of Republicans in the House.  We can say what we want about redistricting, etc., but these are the people who have been voted into office.  I also believe that people voted they way they did because they want a counterbalance between the two parties.  No one group owns the sandbox.  Everyone HAS to play together----which means the two parties HAVE to work together.  There are serious issues that have to be addressed and nothing can or will be solved with one party dictating to the other how it is going to be done.  We have to pray our leaders understand this and respect the will of the American people.

Finally, this.  Patriotism is not an idea of the Republicans or the Democrats.  It is an American ideal.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Pondering “Revolution”


My wife and I have been watching the television show, “Revolution.”

I am not sure how I feel about this show.  At its premise it is about some sort of weapon that was created that would neutralize all the electrical power in the world.  Somehow it worked and the world has been going on for many years without electricity.  The United State government fell and regions are ruled by militias that are battling the populace and one another for national, if not world domination.

In many ways, the world has been turned upside down.  We all remember the bullies in high school, those who were bigger and stronger and who ruled the roost.  If one was a nerd, one was a loser in high school.  However, real life tended to neutralize things.  The nerds went to college, became professionals and suddenly the tables turned.  In “Revolution,” the tables have turned back.  In a wild, untamed society, intellectual know how isn’t as strong a commodity as brute force and violence.

The show is violent.  The heros are a small band of people.  The former militia leader, his niece who is the daughter of the man who created the device that eliminated electricity.  There is also the classic nerd buy with them who has a pendant that holds the secret of power, and another young woman who is a rebel fighter and bomb making expert.

There are others.  There is the head of the militia, the son of the man who created the device, his Mom, and the ongoing saga of the formerly nerdy insurance adjustor turned macho man interrogator and bad guy. 

One thing I like about the show is that it is a reminder of how much we are slaves to the technology of our world and how it all depends on electricity.  If the electricity goes out, we are in serious trouble.  As the electricity in the show is completely out, cars can no longer run (they have batteries) and transportation is brought to a standstill.  Steam trains, steam boats, and horses and carriages are the modes of transportation.  And walking.

Communication is changed forever.  There is no more Internet, no more radio, no television, no telephone communication.  One’s smart phone can be used as a doorstop and little more.  Chaos ensues and the show very clearly demonstrates this.

Whenever we see catastrophes in our nation, we recently have observed Hurricane Sandy, we realize just how important our electrical grid is and how fragile it is.

The underlying story of the militias is also interesting.  They came to be as no one was safe and the militias began to give people safety; they were the only means of law enforcement.  Of course, as they became more powerful they became corrupt and savage to the population they had sworn to protect.

There are lessons in the show about power: electrical power and human power.  The tragedy is, as it so often is, that people’s failure to love one another begins to dictate how life is carried out.

When there is chaos people turn to brute force and violence and hatred begins to fill the day.

What disappoints me about the show is that the heros are not very likeable and have become every bit as violent as they people they oppose.  They lack trust and they seem to have the inability to love and trust one another.  Often, even at their best moments, they do not look to transform hearts to goodness, charity, and love, but to more violence.

I worry about us when we see violence as the solution to the problem.  Perhaps we need to learn that violence is not a solution as much as it is a furthering of the problems of our world.  I am reminded we have a long way to go, and a long way to fully embrace Jesus’ command of loving one another.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Not a Noble Election


In 1860 perhaps the most important election in the history of the United States took place.  It was between Abraham Lincoln ,Stephen Douglas, John Bell, and John Breckenridge.  Lincoln and Douglas were the two major party nominees and their debates were legendary.  Douglas, however, only won one state and while Lincoln swept the north, Bell and Breckenridge swept through the south.

There was one very large looming issue.  Did human beings have the right to own other human beings?    One can argue that the Southern way of life was at stake and the Southern economy was at stake, and Southern liberty was at stake until we turn purple.  It was all based on the right of some human beings owning other human beings.    Lincoln won and we know the results of the issues that were at hand.

The election if 1860 was easily the most important election in the history of the United States.  We would not be the nation we are today had it not been for that election.  That election changed the future and culture of our nation.  It was, in many ways, a time when a noble idea went forward.  Many of called it the most important and, in many ways, the most noble of all American Presidential elections.

The year 2012 will not be a year of nobility.

An obscene amount of money was spent on this election.

People, corporations, and special interest groups flooded us with paid advertisements to elect the candidate of their choice.  In a time of economic difficulty that is graver than any time apart from the Great Depression, billions of dollars were spent on an election.  In a time when people needed jobs, money that could pay salaries was poured into television advertisement.  In a time when we have record numbers of people homeless, jobless, and hungry, billions of dollars was spent on paid advertisements.  This year’s election was so incredibly obscene in terms of money spent. 

Ironically, this election was, in so many ways, a reflection of The Seinfeld Show.  It was, amazingly, an election about not very much....

There are a lot of significant issues that were not addressed:

We sent into two separate wars and cut taxes.  As a result with the cost of the wars (on VISA), and all the government programs, we are awash in debt.  The discussions on taxation and benefits was heated, but no one ever discussed the debt accrued by two unfunded wars.

Hurricane Sandy exposed a couple of things not discussed.  The storm patterns were unprecedented.   These storms have historically gone up the east coast and drifted east.  This storm made a dramatic turn west.  This was abnormal-----but we need to get used to it.  Scientists have told us that climate change has melted large sections of the polar ice cap north of Greenland and changed the jet stream and currents.  The path of this storm was the direct result of the change in climate.  It also exposed the fact that the infrastructure of the United States, especially in older regions like the Northeast, are very, very inadequate.

Climate change is a reality that we should not be ignoring any longer.  Huge economic opportunities are present for people moving us into a new age, and yet, this was not an issue, and never mentioned.  Infrastructure?  Again, not an issue in this election.

Healthcare?  A lot of verbiage on the Affordable Health Care Act, Obamacare, and whether it’s good or not.  No discussion that the world’s richest nation ranks #37 on the World Health Organization's ranking of the world's health systems.  We are just below Costa Rica and just above Slovenia.  France and Italy not only have some of the world’s finest food, but they rank #1 and #2 in world health systems.  There was no discussion of France and Italy’s healthcare systems and why they work so well.

In many ways, this election was made very clear in a couple of instances.

Martha Raddatz asked Joe Biden and Paul Ryan about their Roman Catholic faith and how it impacted their views on abortion.  She took a very, very broad question about the faith and turned it into one issue.  Instead of asking them how their Roman Catholic faith impacted their world views and their role in the government, she made it a single topic question.  Both men gave very articulate answers I might add, but she had such a magnificent opportunity to ask a very good question, and didn’t.

In the Presidential debates, President Obama, very much a product of mainline Protestantism, and Governor Romney, very much a product of Mormonism, were never asked how their faith impacted their world views and their role in government.  It was a great question, never asked.

But perhaps above all, a young man asked a question about graduating from college and looking for a job.  Both President Obama and Governor Romney gave very patronizing answers.  They both helped to paint the lad as a victim of the times, the other party, etc. 

What neither man did was tell the young man the truth.  The way people come out of college and get jobs is they work very hard at it.  No one is going to drop a job on your lap; you have to apply, have a good resume, and excellent grades, and interview well.  There is a lot of hard work in getting a job out of college.  Smart parents tell their children that and good leaders tell citizens that.  In that moment, both men failed miserably in leadership.

I have no idea what the election of 1860 cost, but it wasn’t close to what this one will cost.  It was, however, the most important, and in many ways, most noble of American elections.  The election of 2012, no matter who wins, was not a battle of high ideals and noble causes, it was a battle of money and a dodging of the big issues of our day.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Audio Sermon 11-4-12


Delighting in Reaching Beyond Ourselves in Mission

Text:  James 2:14-18

Rev. Dr. John E. Manzo

Stewardship Moment Joy Knopfmeier