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The Drums of War


Armed protesters, Holly Michigan.

Last week a friend of my nephew’s shared a Facebook post from a woman near my hometown in Michigan. According to her, her husband, a soldier, had stopped for gas at a Mobil station in Holly, the town just east of Fenton, where I grew up.

The soldier was wearing his uniform, and according to the story the ‘Arab’ manager looked him up and down and declared that he would sell him no gas.

There was an outcry. People vowed to boycott. A protest was planned.

My almost infallible bullshit detector started squawking. This sounded extremely unlikely. First, most Middle Eastern businessmen in the US are Christian, not Muslim. Second, it is unlikely that an American Muslim would do this. It took only a few minutes googling to learn, from a response by a man who manages a restaurant in the station, that in fact the pumps were malfunctioning. The manager is Indian, not Arab, and his English is not so great. The soldier, filtering everything through his prejudices, reacted angrily to the perceived snub.

The station had been receiving threats, and the protest did in fact take place, with some of the protesters carrying guns.

Another story featured spray painted messages about the Koran defacing Christian churches. Yet another featured a supposed photo of a sign outside a mosque, taunting America and threatening destruction.

Again, the bullshitometer squawked. It is highly unlikely that a minority, one which is perceived with hostility by a large number of Americans, would draw negative attention to itself at a time like this. The spray paint incident was no doubt carried out by Islamophobes . The sign was obviously photoshopped.

Plus, real jihadists are sneaky.

We live in a moment when War Fever is high. The very real outrages of ISIS feed the frenzy, though I do not know why, if the beheading of two Americans is cause for war, the killing of over 500 children in Gaza does not provoke calls to attack Israel.

ISIS is indeed an alarming phenomenon, too brutal even for Al Qaeda, with greater organization and resources than any previous group of Islamist militants. But people who are sowing fear that soon the jihadists will be beheading Christians in Des Moines are fools. ISIS may be inspire homegrown American militants to violence, but it in itself is no threat to the security of the United States. If it even succeeds in its immediate goals it will be a small state surrounded by enemies, Muslim, Jewish and Christian. Its plans for extension include taking the sacred city of Mecca and destroying the shrines there.

We will see how that goes over with the Muslim world. The ‘caliphate’ has indeed united Muslims worldwide, but they are united against it.

The papers recovered after Osama bin Ladin’s assassination reveal a man racked by doubt. He had come to see that Al Queda’s brutality, its indifference to civilian casualties, and its killing of other Muslims had created a backlash. He feared that militants would go too far, declaring a caliphate, bound to be seen as a threat by virtually every other Muslim organization in the world.

And that is in fact what has happened. ISIS, in spite of the chaos they are perpetrating, is doomed.

But to the neoconservative war criminals who are whipping up the war frenzy, ISIS is a gift. Nothing rouses the mob like tales of atrocities, even if the worst of these (beheading children) are proven to be false. But the neocons are so deeply enmeshed in a false narrative that they have no credibility. ISIS rose not because of some flawed Obama strategy but as the direct fruit of long term American policy. Most of its members, I would wager, have personal grievances – dead family, bombed-out homes, mistreatment at the hands of Americans- at the root of their transformation into militants.

I would like to see a catalogue of American atrocities in Iraq, but I don’t hold my breath.

This is one case where I hate to have been right. I said, when Bush & Co decided to attack Iraq in 2003, that this action would beget a long cycle of violence. I was not alone in this analysis; John Paul said the same.

Now over ten years later, we are seeing the fruit of that violence reach a new level of brutality. And Islamophobic propaganda, most of it clearly phony, is all over the internet. Some Catholics, to their shame, are posting memes of Crusaders, apparently having learned nothing from history.

I have lived through this sort of thing before, watching the gullible, who are legion, being whipped into fury by atrocities real and imagined, stories demonizing Muslims at large, as if a billion extremely disorganized people act in accord (most of the victims of Al Queda and ISIS are in fact Muslim). People are being manipulated by the masters of war, the partisans of Empire.

The drums of war are pounding.

I am not marching.


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Straw for the Fire IV

albert edelfelt

Return of the Vortex…. ?

Dear God, no.

I read in the paper today that certain scientists are claiming that various factors, including the melting polar ice caps, are changing global climate so that last winter may become something of the norm for the eastern United States.

Like global warming may lead to regional ice ages.

The explanation sounded reasonable, but the article did note that more conventional climatologists disagree.

I comforted myself last winter, as I toiled in the biting cold month after month, by telling myself that this was The Winter of a Lifetime. While I am rooting for the conventional climatologists, I also remind myself that I did prove I can do it.

But really, this news story coming just days after I wrote that I am ready for the change of season?

On the other hand, if every Vortex Winter was followed by a summer as sweet as this one?

I might take it.

Anecdotal Wisdom

Do not scorn anecdotal wisdom. Any other kind is just something you read or heard or memorized. In fact the person who continually experiences things contrary to what they believe should happen, given what they are doing in good faith, and doesn’t start to wonder if they got it wrong is really an ideologue, refusing to question his or her premises.

Which can be frightening.

Our human constructs, whether religious or philosophical or political or whatever, make us feel safe, sure that we have a grip on The Real. Realizing that we may have erred is terrifying.

But refusing to admit it and look at things with questioning eyes is a living death.

George Fox

… was right. There is an inner light. Humans can experience some small glimpse of holy Being.

As humans, though, as soon as we open our mouths it gets distorted.

Wisdom, Be Attentive

I have begun to reread Gaudiem et Spes, the Vatican II document that Francis was obviously referencing when he called his pivotal Apostolic Letter Gaudiem Evangelli. I have recently become aware that whatever the feuds in the very recent aftermath, historically speaking, of that Roman Catholic Council, that Council has recently been defiinitively ratified by Francis, who canonized the two popes most identified with it. It is clear, especially if you are apophatic regarding the age and future of humanity and the Church, that if the doomsday prophets are wrong, as they always have been so far, that the Council, and the post-conciliar popes, will be the major influence on Catholicism for the near, and possibly the not-so-near, future.

Granted, the language of the documents may be off-putting to moderns, postmoderns, millennials, and especially most everyone under the age of 45.

Every reference to the human family is rendered ‘man’.

It is all ‘man’, ‘mankind’. and ‘he’ and ‘his’.

I once wrote a sort of apologia for such exclusive language. Sort of the ‘you know that really means humanity, right?’ approach.

Well if that is what it means then let us say what it means.

Which creates certain aesthetic and grammatical problems for those who pay attention to such things.

But it hit me reading the Council document: the key to this dilemma is in using the real inclusive language. Use ‘we’ and ‘our’ for every ‘man’ or ‘man’s’. Try it. It reads well and if translated like this could have a great impact on the future of, well, Us.

Franciscan My Ass

As I am suffering from acute outrage burnout I am not even going to comment on this. Use your imagination for my rant:

“Fox News commentator Lt. Col. Oliver North, of Iran-Contra Affair fame, is the scheduled keynote speaker for a Sept. 13 benefit dinner in Dallas to support the Franciscan Foundation for the Holy Land, a U.S-based ecumenical operation dedicated to assisting persecuted Christians in the Middle East.”

Read the whole sorry tale if you must:http://ncronline.org/news/peace-justice/oliver-north-raise-money-franciscan-holy-land-foundation

Painting by Albert Edelfelt

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Reasons Why You Should Thank a Union:

  1. Weekends
  2. All Breaks at Work, including your Lunch Breaks
  3. Paid Vacation
  4. FMLA
  5. Sick Leave
  6. Social Security
  7. Minimum Wage
  8. Civil Rights Act/Title VII (Prohibits Employer Discrimination)
  9. 8-Hour Work Day
  10. Overtime Pay
  11. Child Labor Laws
  12. Occupational Safety & Health Act (OSHA)
  13. 40 Hour Work Week
  14. Worker’s Compensation (Worker’s Comp)
  15. Unemployment Insurance
  16. Pensions
  17. Workplace Safety Standards and Regulations
  18. Employer Health Care Insurance
  19. Collective Bargaining Rights for Employees
  20. Wrongful Termination Laws
  21. Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967
  22. Whistleblower Protection Laws
  23. Employee Polygraph Protect Act (Prohibits Employer from using a lie detector test on an employee)
  24. Veteran’s Employment and Training Services (VETS)
  25. Compensation increases and Evaluations (Raises)
  26. Sexual Harassment Laws
  27. Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)
  28. Holiday Pay
  29. Employer Dental, Life, and Vision Insurance
  30. Privacy Rights
  31. Pregnancy and Parental Leave
  32. Military Leave
  33. The Right to Strike
  34. Public Education for Children
  35. Equal Pay Acts of 1963 & 2011 (Requires employers pay men and women equally for the same amount of work)
  36. Laws Ending Sweatshops in the United States

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Straw for the Fire III


Here Comes the Night

It is still summer, but the signs of Fall are all around. The last time I heard a cardinal sing it was the Feast of the Assumption. The once bright green leaves of fresh life now look tired and faded. A few trees have limbs that are prematurely red or orange. Others, if you look carefully, have the slightest gold touching old green.Summer’s flowers lack the urgent green thrust of the spring. They look like they are going through the motions.

All except the sunflowers and hibiscus, who are glorious.

But things are winding down.

If you doubt me and you live near my latitude, do not look at the trees when you are walking. Look at the ground.

The life force is waning; you can feel it, even as the harvest peaks.

And you know, I am ready.

No, not for a Winter like that last one, even though there are dark rumors. But for the change, the color and melancholy beauty of the Autumn, the death rituals of Halloween, the pumpkins and the chill and the dark and all of it.

And then the white cold of Winter.

I am ready.


Sense from Mr Chapman

The Islamic State is easy to hate. I won’t call them brutes, as I do not want to insult carnivorous beasts, who kill because they are hungry. Only a human would kill so ruthlessly because he was doing something for ‘God’. They show no respect for any human law or decency. They are destroyers even of Islamic culture. And they are murderers of prisoners of war and of innocent reporters. And abusers of women, one of the lowest forms of human life.

They have declared a Caliphate, one that has succeeded in uniting Muslims worldwide…. against them.

Americans, led by the usual neocon criminals,  are hysterical. Alleged followers of Christ are calling for a Crusade and rattling swords. Moral idiots are suggesting nukes.

But finally I saw today an article by Steve Chapman, in the Akron Beacon Journal, a reprint from The Chicago Tribune, the only sensible thing I have seen in the mainstream media, ‘liberal’ or ‘conservative':


The NFP Thread Lives Again. Maybe

My recent inquiry into the absence of comment here recently generated a lot of talk, which is good. I like conversation here. It became apparent as that discussion evolved that there was a lot of interest in questions of sexuality, NFP, and the so-called Theology of the Body. As you can tell with my comments I have been thinking long and hard about such matters. I am not ready, though, to go public with much of what I have been thinking. I do think, though, that it may be worth reopening the old ‘Is Natural Family Planning Really Natural?’ thread. I had to close it because it became a spam magnet, but let us see if it is safe to open it again. It is now on the sidebar as ‘The Undead NFP Thread’, and here is the link:


Of course if the uninvited spam returns I will have to shut it down again, but it is worth a try.

First Principles

If anyone works forty hours a week and does not enjoy reasonable comfort and security he or she is the victim of a grave injustice. In fact Scripture says that such injustices are among the few sins that cry to heaven for vengeance.

We live and breathe and have our being in the midst of a world full of beauty and abundance and fertility

But we also are born into a  socio-economic system that is so built on evil principles, that is so unjust and corrupt, so slanted against the poor and the working poor – what we used to call the working class- that it has no moral standing and must be dismantled. Unjustly acquired wealth, which means most wealth, must be appropriated and redistributed to its creators, the workers, in the name of the common good.

I have been hearing so many firsthand stories of people being screwed by the system that it makes me dizzy. The neighbors, who only have cold water because they cannot afford their gas bill, in spite of the fact that the man works long hours in a hot factory for poverty wages, and his wife works two crappy jobs. The kids down the street who do not get birthday presents because their parents cannot afford them. Other children we know who last Christmas received no presents. Or my daughter’s friend’s parents, trying to raise four kids on two fast food jobs. Or another of her friends’ Grandma, in her seventies and trying to raise two grandchildren, while their dad is in jail, with serious health problems that are being ignored, and whose mom has lung cancer. The Grandma is an aging charismatic, struggling hard and in ill health.

Meanwhile, all the criminals in their coats and their ties are free to drink martinis and watch the sun rise. (Dylan)

If you are not angry you are not alive.

Which Does Not Mean…

… that you are free to hate. Yes, one can hate the ruling class, which has raped the poor and working class for fun and profit for as long as capitalism has ruled.

But if you happen to meet someone from that tiny segment of humanity that lives it up while the rest of humanity suffers, you must look him or her in the eye, like you would anyone else, and see him or her as a brother or a sister, a fellow being of the human persuasion, another pilgrim, an exile.

They may let you down, or they may show real humanity. Personally, if I had been born to wealth or lucked out and made the Big Time?

I would probably be a real asshole.

But you have to try.

I have found that when dealing with people that are widely feared in middle class society, like felons and beggars and drug addicts, if you treat them like human beings they tend to respond like human beings.

Granted, the average outcast is probably a more fundamentally decent person than the average bourgeoisie.

But still.

Fear creates fear. Respect creates respect.

I am all for the revolution, but it must be a personalist revolution.

Revolution with love may be impossible, but without trying you are doomed.


Painting, ‘Late Summer Evening’ by Naomi Silver


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No Comment


Okay, I am wondering about something.

This site has not had a comment for almost two weeks.

I understand that I have lost a lot of readers since I got excommunicated from the RCC.

No, not the Roman Catholic Church, which I expect to remain in communion with until my death. I mean the Real Catholic Club, which has decided, apparently, that I am no longer a member. The Roman Catholic Church is not, and has rarely been, in any hurry to excommunicate anybody. And I have not, to my knowledge, denied any dogmatic truth that the Church teaches. Not that that is any protection from the vigilantes.

I do have access to the statistics from this site, and I know I have a core of consistent readers. I know that maybe my new experiential apophatic musings have a limited audience.

But it also occurs to me that maybe there is some technical problem with the comments. I know that some of you are also in touch with me on Facebook. If you have tried to comment and have been unable, let me know.

But maybe my existential theologizing has a limited audience.

Enlighten me, please.

Photo by Ritva Kovalainen.

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Driving Home


megan lightell

I have been driving the back roads to and from work ever since winter broke. I have done that for all the  17 years I have lived in Massillon, 25 miles from Wooster, where I work. In the winter the country roads can be treacherous and dark, so I mostly drive the freeway. But when the roads are dry and it is daylight, and I am not running late, I drive the back roads. The pastoral Ohio landscape is soothing, all rolling cropland  and fields and woods, and I find the ride more calming than the highway.

This summer I have been driving what are to me new routes, south of US 30, because my usual route is being repaved, which means a couple of months of delays, loose gravel, and reduced speed limits. I had not travelled these roads for a while and was surprised to see the growth of the number of Amish farms. I had realized that the Amish were expanding: my usual route to and from work passes by numerous conservative Mennonite farms, large, industrialized affairs, but until recently there were only a couple of Amish farms and buggy traffic was rare. Not any more; there are many Amish farmsteads and buggies are an everyday sight.

When I first moved to Ohio twenty years ago I lived in the heart of Amish country, right on the Wayne/Holmes county line. At that time the Amish always acknowledged passing traffic, raising their index finger in greeting. This, according to local lore, is pointing heavenward, and I always returned the salutation.

No more. The Amish these days do not look at you, let alone greet you as they ride by in their buggies. I raise my finger, pointing to heaven, but there is no response.

I am puzzled by this and wonder what it means. I doubt it is a concerted effort, that all the Amish bishops instructed their congregations to cease greeting the ‘English’.  It more likely is a spontaneous effect of modernity’s permeation of Amish culture, a subtle indication of a more atomized existence.

To many outsiders the Amish seem stuck in another time, and for the really conservative churches this can seem to be true. But for most congregations, especially the New Order Amish, the changes of the last couple of decades have been radical. Few New Order men, for example, make a living from farming these days. They work at construction, many of them, and those who manage to work at home are cabinet makers or basket weavers or masters of some other craft.

To cite another example of radical change, tractors were strictly forbidden a few decades ago, even for the New Order, but by the time I lived there it was common for New Order farms to have a tractor. It was used in the barn for its power train and for transportation on the roads.

These days it is common to see New Order men routinely using tractors for field work.

New Order homes often appear indistinguishable from the sprawling houses that the affluent ‘English’ build, aside from the lack of power lines. But they feature most of the conveniences of modern technology, only powered by propane and solar.

Young people in the community are particularly prone to the influence of the modern world with the advent of easily hidden devices that open a wider portal to the world – and the flesh and the devil – than ever their forebears could have dreamed.

And while what makes the news, fortunately, are the times the Amish practice the beatitudes, forgiving the killers of their children, it is also true that modern Amish are much more likely to report crime, even Amish on Amish crime, than ever before, as well as to participate in local elections.

I am thinking that the gradual inroads of modernity may have led to increased individualism, at least insofar as that can coexist with the demands of a highly communitarian religious tradition. In the case of the New Order Amish, that tradition had already been eroded by the influence of American evangelicalism and its highly individualistic emphasis on personal salvation.

Put it all together and it is not unlikely that the Amish have subtly altered their fundamental outlook, that while oddly ‘more open’ to modernity they have become less open to ordinary moderns driving down country roads.

They are becoming ‘normal’ Americans.

This cannot be good.


Painting by Coshocton Ohio artist Megan Lightell


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Perfect Pop

oleta adams

No, I am not big on pop music. But I always liked what I had heard of the 80s band Tears for Fears, even if I always got them mixed up with Crowded House. They did sing the very great song “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”.

So when I saw one of their CDs at a garage sale recently I scooped it up. It is all pretty nice, but this song really stands out. It is everything that a great pop song should be: intricate, tight, with great vocals. Indeed, I looked up the woman who sings with the band on this album, Oleta Adams,  as my daughter is an aspiring vocalist and is always looking for inspiration. But alas, in everything else I found she was, as they say, singing every note like it is her last.

People with powerful voices need to learn restraint. That is where the power is. But in this song she is perfect:

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