Archive for July 19th, 2011

This is the feast of St Elijah (Elias) the Prophet, always a favorite of mine. A man of fire, his icon frequently has a red background.

And a world class smart ass: when confronting the priests of Baal in the famous contest on Mt Carmel, it was not enough to call down fire from heaven. No, first he had to taunt them, and while calling down fire from heaven would have been very impressive, that was not enough for the prophet. He had to douse his sacrifice until it was soaked:

25 Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose one of the bulls and prepare it first, since there are so many of you. Call on the name of your god, but do not light the fire.” 26 So they took the bull given them and prepared it.

   Then they called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. “Baal, answer us!” they shouted. But there was no response; no one answered. And they danced around the altar they had made.

 27 At noon Elijah began to taunt them. “Shout louder!” he said. “Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.” 28 So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed. 29 Midday passed, and they continued their frantic prophesying until the time for the evening sacrifice. But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention.

 30 Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come here to me.” They came to him, and he repaired the altar of the LORD, which had been torn down. 31 Elijah took twelve stones, one for each of the tribes descended from Jacob, to whom the word of the LORD had come, saying, “Your name shall be Israel.” 32 With the stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD, and he dug a trench around it large enough to hold two seahs[a] of seed. 33 He arranged the wood, cut the bull into pieces and laid it on the wood. Then he said to them, “Fill four large jars with water and pour it on the offering and on the wood.”

 34 “Do it again,” he said, and they did it again.

   “Do it a third time,” he ordered, and they did it the third time. 35 The water ran down around the altar and even filled the trench.

 36 At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: “LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command.37 Answer me, LORD, answer me, so these people will know that you, LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.”

 38 Then the fire of the LORD fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.

 39 When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The LORD—he is God! The LORD—he is God!”

 40 Then Elijah commanded them, “Seize the prophets of Baal. Don’t let anyone get away!” They seized them, and Elijah had them brought down to the Kishon Valley and slaughtered them.

Actually what he said was not that Baal was “busy”. He said Baal was maybe taking a shit.

These translators love to clean things up, alas.

And while I am a near pacifist- that is, a pacifist in practice if not in principle- I draw the line at slaughtering false prophets.

But I still find him kindred.

And I find it fitting that this man of fire was taken up in fire to heaven, one of the few who dwells there in a transfigured body.

And by chance, July 20 is also my anniversary.

I married my bride 15 years ago.

It has not always been smooth, and things have not always turned out the way we had hoped. But I love her immensely and am deeply grateful for her. I would like to dedicate this tune to her. Granted, it is not exactly a normal love song; it is addressed to God more than to a woman, but the hope and beauty it expresses comes closer than any conventional tune in saying what I want to say, and further, if our love is not ultimately sacramental, finding its meaning in shared love of God, it is nothing.

For Michelle, this is for you, in full knowledge that marrying a fiery man has not always been easy:

(Icon by Daniel Nichols)

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Crimes Unpunished

The Justice Department recently announced that, of the 101 cases involving alleged illegal treatment of post-9/11 detainees by the CIA and its contractors, 99 were being closed. The remaining two, which involved deaths in custody, would continue to be investigated….

Holder’s recent move is completely consistent with Obama’s insistence on looking “forward, not back” when it comes to accountability for torture. Prosecuting most of these cases would require seriously examining the perpetrators’ faith that the Yoo memos acted as a “golden shield,” as one Bush administration official called them. But the law says that this defense, “the defense of superior orders,” doesn’t work when the act in question is palpably or manifestly illegal.

It didn’t work for Lt. William Calley when he and his platoon killed over 300 women, children, and elderly men in the village of My Lai during the Vietnam War. It didn’t work for Lynndie England, the hapless Army reservist convicted of torturing and abusing detainees at Abu Ghraib.

And it didn’t work for most of the defendants at Nuremberg.



And this: Tens of thousands of Americans are being held in super-maximum-security prisons where they are deprived of contact and psychologically destroyed. Undocumented workers are rounded up and vanish from their families for weeks or months. Militarized police units break down the doors of some 40,000 Americans a year and haul them away in the dead of night as if they were enemy combatants. Habeas corpus no longer exists. 


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