Monday, November 23, 2020

"Woe to you, bishops, hypocrites!"


Today's Los Angeles Times

Whoa, those Catholic bishops are threatening to excommunicate president-elect Joe Biden!

Thank you, Fr. Randall Balmer, for calling this hypocrisy to our attention in today's LA Times.

The bishops were thrilled with Trump's win in 2016, and this year Jose Gomez, Archbishop of the US, congratulated Biden immediately as did Pope Francis. 

But then Archbishop Gomez needed to attend the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, where his rank and file were grumbling about Biden's support of US law that women can have access to abortion--a law confirmed by the Supreme Court.  

Apparently these bishops don't believe in the Constitution, which declares a separation between church and state.  It's not okay for a Catholic president to uphold the law of the land if that law conflicts with church laws.

The archbishop "declared that the president-elect’s support for abortion rights presents the church with a 'difficult and complex situation,'" writes Balmer.

So difficult a situation that the bishops need a task force to reflect on what to do.  Or at least Gomez deflected these perturbed priests into a task force, a place familiar as the graveyard of much righteous anger.

Did they set up a task force on anything Trump believed or did?  

His paying a woman to keep silent or separating mothers from babies at the US border didn't need a task force.  

I guess they figured Trump wasn't Catholic, so he wasn't their problem.  But they stayed on good terms with him--he was helping them out with judges appointed to the Supreme Court.

What would Jesus do?  What would he say to bishops who rarely excommunicate their own priests who abuse children--but get high and mighty about this new president?

We need look no farther than Matthew 23:27--

 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people's bones and all uncleanness."

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Medicine for anyone lost in grief...


How to read this book:

Go to bed and pull up the covers.

Read the poems aloud, irreverently, flat, just skimming until one catches your heart.

Have a colored pen ready to star it for future reading.

And read on.  Take a nap if you need to.

Most of us don’t read a whole book of poetry these days.  It’s a lost art.  It’s like eating a whole jar of olives. 

Occasionally there’s a page of prose from someone’s memoir.  Herself a writer of memoir, Barbara Abercrombie bypasses 200 pages to give you the one golden page.

This book is for anyone with a loss.  If, like me, you don’t have a “love of my life,” skip the sappy readings about lovers and find those that probe the mystery of death: “Where are you now?  …What are you now?  Air?  Mist?  Dust?  Light?” asks Dorianne Laux.

Anyone who has lost a child to death or drugs, perhaps a parent to accident or Alzheimer’s or Covid-19, will tear up at a few points in this book.  One feels less alone surrounded by these open hearts, from Mark Doty to Madeleine L’Engle to Joy Harjo to Rumi and of course Mary Oliver.

Order two copies--give one to a friend.

Saturday, November 7, 2020

The Day We Defeated a Dictator


This little bear from 2016 wanted to dance too when Dems won today in 2020.   It's been a long four years.

Miss you, Hillary Rodham Clinton! If you had won in 2016, Heather Heier (d. Charlottesville, Aug. 12, 2017) and 250,000 other Americans would still be alive. 

President Hillary R. Clinton would have taken proper steps to stop Covid-19 before it spread so widely in the US.

Van Jones expresses the grief and fear so many Americans have been feeling for four years.

These photos were all taken on Saturday, November 7, 2020, the day Americans defeated the man who succeeded in intimidating so many people from immigrant families to US senators.

8:26 am - Pennsylvania declared that Joe Biden was the winner of that state's electoral votes, bringing Biden's total from 264 to 284 in the Electoral College.

News organizations began making the call so long postponed: "Joe Biden is our President-Elect."

I rushed outside to ring bells and wave the flag that had been flying near my front door.

Shannon and Michael across the street came out to celebrate.

The neighbor kids next door had been walking their dog with their mother, but soon they emerged in red, white and blue to dance and cheer.

They reported that other houses on nearby blocks had also become centers of mini-block parties.

I began calling family and friends, waking many of them up.

Then I went for a jog on the beach, but tremendous winds had attacked the summer's accumulation of sand and created 9 foot cliffs on Santa Monica's wide flat beach.

The colors red, white, and blue were everywhere.

As the sun started to dip beneath the horizon, I walked the dogs while waving a flag 
and wearing a hat that said "Make Tacos Great Again."
I heard honking from major streets, and a few cars began honking when they saw me and the dogs with a flag.  I guess we were a parade.  
A red convertible drove by honking with women waving and holding signs: 
"Ciao, Cheeto" and  "8 years."

Spontaneous celebration broke out everywhere, from my neighborhood 

to West Hollywood 

to Times Square in New York City 

to Independence Hall in Philadelphia.

In London, fireworks lit the sky.

In Paris, cathedral bells rang.  

President Emmanuel Macron said,

"Welcome back, America!"

Friday, November 6, 2020

Stephen Colbert preaches it, abandons monologue

Thank you, Stephen Colbert, for calling on Republican senators and other Republicans to demand that Trump:
accept the voice of the people, 
concede that Biden won the election, and 
set in motion a peaceful transition.

"Qui tacet, consentire," he quotes.

Whoever is silent, that person consents.

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

This weird feeling

Red, white, and blue... and pride.
I fly the flag on Election Day--or all week if I feel like it. 

Not on the Fourth of July. I don't really like bombs bursting in air, especially if the US is dropping bombs on some country somewhere.

I glanced at my flag as I walked out of the house this afternoon and felt this weird feeling. Pride? 

Yes, I realized with amazement.  I feel proud to be an American.

For all our flaws, still we defeated fascism.

Now all we have to do is tackle COVID-19. 

And racism. Oh, and the environment. And...

May take a few years. 

Sunday, November 1, 2020

The Saints We Have Lost...

Day of the Dead masks worn
by two Herchurch members today.

Today is All Saints' Day, November 1, the day we honor those who have died in the Christian community.  (See note below.)

Pastor Stacy Boorn preached on "the Day of the Dead," remembering the 230,000 people who have succumbed to Covid-19 and also sharing a story from her visit to the Kigali Genocide Memorial in Rwanda.  In 1994 some 400,000 Tutsi--or even as many as 800,000 were killed there.  She met a gardener at the memorial who had lost family members and was memorizing the names of many of the victims to honor them.

Pastor Stacy leads Herchurch, a congregation in San Francisco, which is part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA).  These days the church gathers via Zoom, so I am able to participate in southern California.

Afterward she led us in responsive reading of a poem written by Rabbi Jack Riemer and Rabbi Sylvan Kamens published in Gates of Prayer (Shaarei Tefila): The New Union Prayer Book (Reform Judaism).

We Remember Them

In the rising of the sun and in its going down, 

We remember them;

In the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter, 

We remember them;

In the opening of the buds and in the warmth of summer, 

We remember them;

In the rustling of leaves and the beauty of autumn, 

We remember them;

In the beginning of the year and when it ends, 

We remember them;

When we are weary and in need of strength, 

We remember them;

When we are lost and sick of heart, 

We remember them;

When we have joys we yearn to share, 

We remember them;

So long as we live, they too shall live, For they are now a part of us, 

As we remember them.    

— From Gates of Prayer

Pastor Stacy's congregation recited the refrain "We remember them."

She invited us to remember the persons in our lives who died in 2020.

The persons I'm remembering include:

Karen Gustafson, my cousin's wife, who suffered isolation in a SNF during the Covid shutdown;

Jack Pera, son of my mother's cousin;

Ron Pera, brother of Jack;

Santos Aguayo, my friend and gardener;

Berta Hernandez Torres, my friend in following Jesus, who died of Covid-19;

Virginia Ramey Mollenkott, my friend and author of 13 books;

Sue Horner, my friend in EEWC-Christian Feminism Today.

I'm also remembering people I never met:

George Floyd,

Breonna Taylor,

Brittany Bruner-Ringo, a nurse who contracted Covid-19 in her Assisted Living center;

Celia Marcos, a Covid-19 nurse in Los Angeles;

Li Wengliang and five other doctors of Wuhan Central Hospital, who died of Covid-19.

On this day for remembering our departed, I say to them: "So long as we live, you too shall live, for you are now a part of us, as we remember you."


Note:  In the Bible, all followers of Jesus are called "the saints" (sanctified ones), but in Catholic tradition, there are two groups of departed: 1) specially designated saints, to whom we might pray for help and 2) all the other departed ones, some of whom might be in Purgatory.  The "other departed" get remembered or even prayed for on Nov. 2, All Souls Day, the day after All Hallows' Day.  Some Protestants ignore both of these days because those who are departed don't need our prayers (they are already in the presence of God) and we can address our petitions directly to God.  These churches allow people to honor the departed, however, by popular demand.   

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Evangelicals for Biden

Suddenly they are coming out of the woodwork: Evangelicals for Biden.

Here's the Washington Post story on them in early October:  "A new group of evangelical leaders forms in support of Biden."  Thank you to reporter Sarah Pulliam Bailey.  

"Republicans don't own 'pro-life' and they don't own evangelical," said John Huffman, former board chair of Christianity Today magazine. Huffman knows other evangelical leaders who would come out against Trump but their supporters would withdraw funding.

"We feel like we are speaking for a lot of evangelical leaders who are as intimidated as senators who have to support the president for reelection," he continued.

Abortion "is an issue that singlehandedly prevents them from voting for Biden," says Jerusha Duford, granddaughter of Billy Graham.

Here's a short list of some of the evangelicals coming out for Biden in this last month before the 2020 election.

Pro-Life Evangelicals for Biden including:

  • Joel Hunter, former pastor of a megachurch in Orlando FL
  • Ron Sider
  • Rich Mouw
  • John Huffman, former board chair of CT & former pastor to Richard Nixon
  • Jerushah Duford, who has written op-eds supporting Biden for Huff Post, the NYT, USA Today.

Black evangelical leaders including:

  • Brenda Salter McNeil
  • Bishop Claude Alexander
  • John M. Perkins, civil rights activist

Evangelicals for Biden including

  • Jim Ball, environmentalist & advisor to Ronald Reagan
  • Rich Cizik, National Association of Evangelicals

Believers for Biden - part of the Biden campaign

Catholics for Biden - part of the Biden campaign

Other religious leaders and individuals for Biden:

  • Daniel Coats, Director of National Intelligence, an evangelical quoted in Bob Woodward's Rage
  • Josh Dickson, faith adviser to Biden and evangelical in large nondenominational church in Denver
  • Rev. Gabriel Salguero, Latino evangelical
  • Alison Siefert, interviewed on 1A Across America (WAMU NPR)

Groups who have invited Biden to speak:

  • Progressive National Baptist Convention (African-American)
  • Poor People's Campaign
  • Online summit for Muslims

Holdouts who still support Trump:

Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, who opposed Trump in 2016, calling him "the great evangelical embarrassment"

Secular, Republican support for Biden:

The Lincoln Project

If you know of other evangelicals or religious groups supporting Biden, please make a note in the Comment Section below.

Friday, October 30, 2020

Pro-lifers voting for Biden

 Justin Taylor, dear, please listen to Alison Siefert speaking on 1A Across America: She's a Bible-believing Christian voting for #BidenHarris2020. But you claim that "it’s ordinarily a sin to vote for a pro-choice candidate" Not a sin to vote for Trump?

Pro-lifers are one group who may decide the election either for Trump or for Biden.

Above is my tweet to Justin Taylor, a pro-life, women-in-submission-to-men Christian who is part of The Gospel Coalition (founded 2005) and in fact a member of its all-male Council.

Justin has taken upon himself the task of 'splaining to Christian women (and men?) why we should not vote for Joe Biden for president.

In 2016 he and his friends held many of us to voting for Trump because we thought we had to support an anti-abortion president to get more anti-abortion justices on the Supreme Court. No matter how much Trump boasted of sexual abuse or paid off women to be silent, we had to vote "pro-life" if we were genuine Christians.

Well, now that the Court is set in a conservative direction, maybe we can express our disgust for this fake president and vote for the Biden/Harris ticket. Right?

No. Justin mansplains to us that "it’s ordinarily a sin to vote for a pro-choice candidate" in his Oct. 6 blog post on the Gospel Coalition website. He wants us to vote for Trump, not Biden, even though the Supreme Court is safely locked up as ready to overturn Roe v. Wade.

It boggles my mind how a sincere Christian can vote for a president who so openly defies God's word. Alison Siefert explained it, however, when she was interviewed for 1A Across America produced by WAMU for National Public Radio. She has long been a single-issue voter (pro-life) and a Republican.

But this year it got too hard for her to overlook all of Trump's mean, self-centered, race-baiting, covid-ignoring behavior--"contrary to everything I've learned about being a Christian." She studied her Bible and decided she needed to vote for Biden in this national emergency.

Voting for Trump "just didn't line up with what I believed about my Lord," she said.

Justin has thought about Alison's predicament, and he concludes (after struggling through 9 principles and a weird metaphor involving gear shifts) that when she votes for Biden, she is "probably sinning for her support of that candidate... But I would still affirm my willingness to come to the Lord’s Table with her."

"Oh, thank you, Justin! Thank you, thank you, for being willing to admit me to the common table," he imagines us Alisons saying. After all, he has decided that anyone who is "voting for the pro-choice candidate because of his or her support for abortion" deserves excommunication.

Forgive me, Justin, for in your view I have probably sinned. I edited a pro-choice book in 1994 called Abortion--My Choice, God's Grace: Christian Women Tell Their Stories (Pasadena, CA: Hope Publishing House). Perhaps that was before you were born.

Is my book a bigger sin than voting for Biden? I did that too.

Justin, my dear, could you please research whether it's a sin to vote for a racist?

Or to vote for a man who flaunts his adultery, fornication, pride, greed, wrath, envy, gluttony and sloth? (Remember the 7 deadly sins?)

Is it a sin to vote for a man who tells lies habitually?

We'd be so grateful if you could write a blog post on the consequences of voting for a person who boasts of these kinds of sin. Would you still break bread with us if we voted for a man like this?

By the way, I'd like to ask you one more question. How can you have a Gospel Coalition with no women on its Council? Jesus didn't operate that way. He walked through cities and villages "bringing the good news" with a crowd of men and women in leadership. Read Luke 8:2-3.

I'm concerned that your not viewing women and men as equals before God might be a sin. Have you ever read Galatians 3:28? "There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus." The all-male Council of your Gospel Coalition may be sinning in excluding women.

To learn more about whether excluding women might be a sin, read All We're Meant To Be by Letha Dawson Scanzoni and Nancy Hardesty. Or visit the websites of CBE International and EEWC-Christian Feminism Today.

"Local news" sites paid for by GOP


A "local" news site - Photo from the NY Times website

You know what's scary?

Finding out that your local online news source--the one giving you convenient and interesting local stories--is actually part of a propaganda network: 

A nationwide operation of 1,300 local sites publishes coverage that is ordered up by Republican groups and corporate P.R. firms.

I heard about this phenomenon by listening to The Daily, a nightly 20-minute feature produced by the New York Times and aired on National Public Radio.  In its Oct. 28 edition, Davey Alba and Jack Nicas reported on their Oct. 18 news article about these "local news" sites that are actually Republican propaganda:

Yet the network, now in all 50 states, is built not on traditional journalism but on propaganda ordered up by dozens of conservative think tanks, political operatives, corporate executives and public-relations professionals, a Times investigation found.

The sites appear as ordinary local-news outlets, with names like Des Moines Sun, Ann Arbor Times and Empire State Today. They employ simple layouts and articles about local politics, community happenings and sometimes national issues, much like any local newspaper.

This network of websites is managed by Brian Timpone, who for 20 years has been making money on the decline of trusted, traditional local newspapers.

But there are other chains of "local" newspapers that are actually part of various international chains.

For example, my cousin sent me her father's obituary published in Newsbreak.  I know the local papers in Montrose, Telluride, Cortez, and Durango--and Newsbreak is not one of them.  So I checked to see whether it's legitimate.  

It's not.  Newsbreak is described by Enigma Software as a website that "spams users with a constant flow of advertisements" and even porn. It's owned by a corporation in China.

At first glance, the website appears to be a useful tool that would provide its visitors with the latest news. However, this is one of the countless bogus websites online that do not provide any content of value, and instead, seek to benefit from their visitors using various shady tricks.

Spams Users with a Constant Flow of Advertisements

Upon visiting the page, users will be asked to permit the site to display Web browser notifications. Keeping in mind that this fake page poses as a legitimate news website, many users may be tricked to allow browser notifications thinking that they will be alerted for the latest breaking news. However, this is not the case, certainly. As soon as a visitor allows this dodgy page to display Web browser notifications, they will be flooded with irrelevant and unwanted advertisements promoting all dubious content – from pornographic videos to fake dating websites and illicit streaming platforms. Some users may receive news updates, too, among all the advertisement notifications, but it is likely that the information provided by the site will not be relevant to their interests or their area.

Of course, Newsbreak wanted me to download its software in order to read the obituary. But after hearing the report on The Daily, I searched for info on Newsbreak before downloading.  I'm glad I didn't let this malware into my computer.

Wikipedia has an entry on Newsbreak, but it's flagged at the top as written by Newsbreak itself--clearly biased.  I submitted an edit for the Wikipedia entry, a warning, but no doubt it will be deleted as soon as Newsbreak notices it.

The South China Morning Post had this to say about Particle Inc., the Chinese corporation that owns Newsbreak.

Yep, the amount of pseudo news floating around is scary.  I can't even read this obit of my cousin's dad without hours of checking the website of this odd "local" news source I had never heard of before in my 70 years of connection to southwest Colorado.  It turns out to be Chinese-owned and spews a bunch of junk into your computer. 

Welcome to the 21st century, still in its infancy.


Here's what one person reports on Quora:

I tried Newsbreak by accident, I must have accidently clicked a link. But since it somehow got installed on my phone I decided to see what it was like.

So for the past couple of weeks I have been bombarded with notifications presenting one story after another on my phone.

It contains mostly news stories that I have already seen on my local news sources. So much of what they offer is like watching reruns of old news.

It is loaded with misleading sucker ads that are designed to look like real news stories, so you have to look carefully for that fine print that says, “ad” or “sponsored” to avoid getting sucked in.

Those kinds of ads are mostly pay per click so every click makes them money. Many of the ads are trying to lure you into clicking tons of pages filled with a couple sentences of text but mostly ads. You can't see what the end of the story is until you have clicked “NEXT” 50 times.

I refuse to waste my time that way. If a story seems interesting, as soon as I see the first “NEXT” button I get out of there and just Google the story headline which usually easily found and read it from the original source which is likely where they got it in the first place.

But what finally made me uninstall Newsbreak was after I checked out some of the reader comments about a few stories.

Unlike Quora, Newsbreak readers seem to be the most ignorant and uneducated in the country.

Most of Newsbreak readers seem to be people with mouths larger than their brains offering baseless opinions, while calling other readers with equally baseless opposing opinions, patently offensive names using crude language consisting of mostly four letter words instead of presenting rational educated arguments supporting such opinions.

The last time I ever was exposed to comments on the level of Newsbreak readers was when I was on the elementary school playground at recess when no teacher was near.

It's target readership seems to be on the same level as a National Enquirer reader, so if you happen to love the Enquirer you will probably love Newsbreak.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Is Jesus a Republican?


"Maybe Jesus isn't a Republican," says Alison Siefert, an evangelical in Saginaw, Michigan, who voted for Trump in 2016 but is voting for Biden this year.

She's usually a single-issue voter and has been part of the prolife movement for a long time.

James C. Morrison interviewed her for 1A Across America this week on NPR. Listen to the interview:

"I was probably a liberal Republican--is that even a thing?  I want to support small businesses...but now the core things in the party are to hate the left and this idea of judicial legislation."

"I felt he was cheapening the office of the presidency with his constant name-calling and tweeting."  

"It didn't line up with what Jesus was like--the people that Jesus came to minister to.  It just didn't line up with what I believed about my Lord."

"Single-issue voting to me right now seems very short-sighted," she explains.  "I think we can't hide behind the red skirts any more.  I have a 'Republican Voters Against Trump' sign in my yard that gets knocked down regularly."

Thank you for your courage!  Your ability to express your views is admirable.

"You need to vote like your life depends on it because the nature of our country really does," she concludes.