Archive for August, 2014




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 one of the lowest forms of human life, abusers of women.

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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As Summer Fades

a painting0001001

After the Vortex

It has been such a beautiful summer. After That Horrid Winter I had sort of feared a hard and hot summer, but it has only a few times approached 90. Mostly it has been fair, in the 70s, clear, with regular showers. Skies are often blue, and white fluffy clouds are frequent, like a Michigan summer.

Sweetest summer of the twenty I have experienced in Ohio.

Ideal, especially for someone who works outside and was traumatized by the Winter of the Vortex. Granted, Spring was fleeting and summer appears to be fading early. And people are talking: rumors are afoot that the experts are predicting the Return of the Vortex.

I just say ‘La la la what a beautiful summer day’ and hope they are wrong.

Two Questions

Having grasped the General Principle of Fuckupedness (‘Fallenness’ in polite circles) and having understood the Total Futility of human endeavor, it occurs to me that no human project should proceed without first asking the question ‘What Could Possibly Go Wrong?’

The answer, of course, in most cases, is ‘Just About Everything.’

Then one should ask the question ‘Who Could It Hurt?’

After pondering these two questions one can then decide if it is worth the risk.

It just may prevent the usual afterword: ‘But We Meant Well’.

But probably not.

Worlds and Dimensions

It has lately occurred to me that there is not perfect interface with the various dimensions of being. Call them orders or vibrations or wavelengths or worlds or dimensions, they do not fit so perfectly as has been imagined in the past.

In the Divine Liturgy of the Eastern churches there is a prayer for forgiveness for ‘sins committed intentionally and unintentionally’. I have often heard people ask how this can be, how one can sin without intent. The answer, of course, is that they cannot, in the sense of having guilt imputed for some evil they did not in the least intend. I have never had a hard time understanding though, in light of the beauty of God’s perfection, that we daily and innocently violate the pure ontological order.

For example, in the Book of Genesis we get hints that in perfect Edenic harmony there would be no killing. Humans were given fruit and seedbearing plants for nourishment. In this order, no living thing was killed.We cannot imagine a world that is not beholden to death, and even that world appears to be perfect, for what it is.

Later, when that perfect order was disrupted humans were allowed to kill and eat animals for food. This is ontologically imperfect, but no moral guilt is associated with eating meat, even, in the New Covenant, meat that was considered unclean in the Mosaic Law.

Similarly, any killing of another human disrupts the ontological order, even if it does not violate the moral order. Pacifists grasp the former part of this equation, and offer a very healthy dose of purity to the discussion. But there are few – though I know and love some – who would not use force, even deadly force, to defend a helpless child against an aggressor.

And much as I love my pure pacifist friends, I would not leave my children in their care.

But I have been speculating about whether this distinction between the moral order and the ontological order may not be a key for resolving a number of internal problems that have plagued the Church in recent decades.

And no, I am not going into detail here.

Maybe on my secret blog.

Stupid Me

Which some of my friends have expressed a good deal of curiosity about.

But no one has found it. I have had one visitor in the month or so it has been up. And that was my bride, who was invited.

But yesterday I googled the title of the hidden blog, just to check it out. And guess what? The web address included the part of my email address with my first initial and my surname.

I told you I was technologically stupid.

Sneaky, sneaky me.

Fortunately the only things I have published there are some poems and memoirs, nothing too embarrassing, unless it is the poems.

I have not written poetry for twenty years and have no idea if it is any good or not. If past experience is any indication, I probably will look at it in ten years and find most of it pretty bad.

While I am glad that I did not post anything too horribly personal, even though only Michelle has read it, it occurs to me that if I ever get into the intensely introspective stuff, the humiliating things, I will just leave it as an unpublished draft for future reference.

Why I Love Francis

He loves Jesus and hates capitalism.


Painting, ‘Landscape, Burkhart Road’, by moi.

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It is liberating to grasp that every human endeavor is doomed. I may not believe in Calvin’s Total Depravity but I have come to believe in Total Futility, a very different concept, in which humans are capable of great good and love as well as a great deal of bullshit and nastiness. But whatever good they intend is doomed to be mixed with human cupidity and lust and stupidity.

Which does not mean one does not try.

Good Intentions

For in spite of the proverb, the road to hell is not paved with good intentions. It is paved with everything but. Which does not mean that our best intentions do not often make little hells all around us.

The World, etc.

I did not realize that the term ‘the World, the Flesh and the Devil’, which in Western spiritual tradition summarizes the enemies of the soul, did not come from Scripture, but from the Book of Common Prayer. But whatever the source that about sums it up.

Me, I think that they are listed in order of the danger, which is just about the opposite of the way most Christians view it.

And by ‘the World’ I mean every human endeavor, every concept, every construct, good, beautiful, ugly and in between. Church people may think themselves apart from ‘the World’ because they abstain from certain parts of it, but they are not. ‘The World’ is just as present in a monastic community or a strict Mennonite assembly as it is in a strip club or a corporate boardroom.


You know how in high school history you read the formative documents of American history? And that one of them was the sermon by Calvinist divine Jonathan Edwards entitled “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God?”

Can you imagine how different American history would be if that sermon was called “Sinners in the Arms of a Loving God”?

Or if it was called “Children in the Arms of a Loving Father”?


One of the few good things to emerge from the recent deplorable news cycle is the widespread outrage over the militarization of the police. I have written about this for years, of cops in camouflage on small town streets, of arbitrary traffic stops, of breaking down doors in the middle of the night for minor offenses, of the killing of unarmed (most often black) Americans, of the neighboring town of Orrville, Ohio, population 9,000, home of Smucker’s, whose police department owns an armored personnel carrier.

America, apparently, has had it. When The National Review agrees with the left and the libertarians and the ACLU? Well maybe the days of the police state are numbered. Granted, true to form, NR framed this as overpaid government union employees, with, egad, pensions,  misbehaving.

Guess we have to take what we can get from that corner.

But it is important to remember that issues of cowboy cops are local issues, where democracy can still work. County sheriffs and city commissioners and other bureaucratic functionaries are directly elected.

None of this is hard to remedy.

Painting by Georgia O’Keefe

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“… is Truth.”

I thought of that old saying last weekend, when the internet was aflame with horrified accusations that the Sunni militants of ISIS were decapitating children.

Now I do not doubt that the enraged Islamists are capable of the usual horrors that traumatized and angry men commit in times of war. They have, apparently, murdered prisoners of war, they have persecuted the ‘infidels’, they espouse the most inhuman attitudes toward women.

But beheading children? Really? Few humans are capable of such an act. Indeed, studies have shown that most humans, before the advent of desensitizing video war games (developed, ahem, by the military for that very purpose) are reluctant to kill even enemy combatants in battle, firing over their heads.

I know that Fr Dwight Longanecker, who for some reason has an audience, has speculated that the warriors of ISIS are possessed by ancient Assyrian Demons.

Yes, he actually said that.

That is classic wartime rhetoric, dehumanizing and demonizing one’s enemies. That has always led to atrocities, and the war fever of those who claim to follow Jesus has been in some ways more appalling than the crimes of war.

But my bullshitometer started squawking when I read these reports. I searched the internet in vain for someone who would investigate these claims, but only found pages and pages of fear mongering and unsubstantiated rumor.

But the inimitable Owen White found this, from a, to me, obscure Protestant missionary organization, which sought the sources for the story:

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More Calvin

Remember that these are only sketches for a future project. Like so many things I have little time now to devote to finishing anything…

bob i1003





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While I am horrified by reports of the atrocities committed by the radical Sunni insurgents of ISIS, I am also by nature wary of such reports, even though these seem well documented.

But do you remember being told that Iraqi soldiers were ripping Kuwaiti babies from incubators and throwing them out windows? Lies, complete lies, though they led to widespread enthusiasm for war. Not that I put anything past ISIS, which seems to incarnate the most extreme form of Islamic militancy, with no regard for human life or human anything.

But I am just as horrified by the American Christian response, invoking the crusades and calling for an aggressive response. I am not a total pacifist, though I am very close, and the idea of just taking the barbarians out is compelling, were it not for the fact that in my 61 years I have never seen American bombs do anything but make everything worse.

And I am appalled by the lack of historic context. I am pretty sure that if you interviewed the typical ISIS warrior you would find that before the US attacked his country he was selling his wares or driving his cab, maybe making it to Friday prayers, maybe not. These men were radicalized by the disruption of their society that the American invasion incurred, by the deaths of family members in the bombing campaigns, by the brutalization of friends by American troops, or, even more, by the private armies that accompanied the invasion.

I have no answers.

But I know that if we do not begin in the Love that Our Saviour commanded we are on the wrong path, have wandered far from the Way.


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