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Mitt Pulls a Boner

There’s no need to stick a fork in him, since there never was any blood in him in the first place.

It’s been four days now since Mother Jones magazine published Mitt Romney’s comments at that $50,000-a-plate fundraiser last May in Boca Raton, Florida, in which he asserted that 47% of all Americans are freeloaders who consider themselves “victims,” take no responsibility for their lives and expect the government to give them “free health care, free housing, free food, you name it.”

Poor little rich boy, with his 12% tax rate (in 2010; no one knows about the past) and $77,000 deduction for his wife’s dancing horse. He resents every police officer, firefighter, military veteran and active duty soldier, teacher, social worker, waitress, desk clerk, retail employee and factory worker, as well as every retiree, orphan and disabled person scraping by on Social Security, because they “pay no income taxes.” The horror of it all!

I’ve got news for you, pal. Everyone who works for a paycheck and gets Federal taxes deducted is paying income tax – along with FICA and Medicare.

While the media bleats about “payroll taxes,” those are income taxes. You make some income, you pay some tax. That’s how it works. Those are income taxes.

Every worker in this country pays income taxes.

True, they may get some of it back at the end of the year, but they’re paying income taxes. Believe me, the Federal government appreciates the float.

I’ve never gotten all of mine back, nor do I know anyone who has. Most people are glad to get a little refund on April 15, on what they paid in income tax.

Romney insulted half of America in front of his rich friends.

Meanwhile, I’m really disappointed in Howard Fineman (Huffington Post) and the rest of the pundits on MSNBC. They’ve been all over Romney for his idiotic remarks, but they won’t come out and tell the truth, which is that he’s just lost the election. It’s over. He’s done.

Fineman’s just covering his ass.

There’s nothing fine about Howard Fineman. The man needs a haircut in more ways than one.

“Oh,” the pundits say, “there’s a lot of time left, the debates are coming up, we could have a foreign crisis, this is way too soon to make a call.”

They won’t, but I will: President Obama will be re-elected this November.

Does anyone expect Mitt Romney to have a strong debate performance? He can’t even run a respectable campaign. He thinks the rich are supporting the middle class, when it’s the other way around!

Republican pundits know this election is over; but the Democrats profess to worry. And while some of this is strategic perhaps – people do still have to vote, after all, and that’s 50 days away – they end up not telling the truth, when the only reason they’re on TV is to tell the truth.

As a former reporter I understand the impulse to hem and haw. No one likes making a public mistake and having to eat crow. It’s a lesson reporters only learn by making public mistakes, and doing it often enough that by the time they’re Fineman’s age, you couldn’t drag them out on a limb. But they end up looking foolish anyway.

By pronouncing the presidential race over early, they could talk about the U.S. Senate instead. I think the Democrats will pick up a few seats, which will strengthen Obama’s hand in his second term. I think Maine will flip, that Angus King, the independent former governor, will win and caucus with the Democrats. I think Missouri’s going for Claire McCaskill. I think Tammy Baldwin could win in Wisconsin. Elizabeth Warren has pulled out to a lead in Massachusetts.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is sinking millions into trying to defeat former Gov. Angus King, but Mainers are an independent bunch.

Romney’s bonehead remarks will drag down Republicans in the House, too, maybe not enough to yield control to the Democrats, but the Tea Party is running out of tea. Republicans won’t be partying come November.

Here’s what’s happened. Romney isn’t ready for prime time and everyone knows it. He’ll still get millions of votes and carry some states, but he has proved himself incapable of governing the country, since he can’t even run a campaign. He isn’t ready to be Commander-in-Chief. Obama will win the military vote; he’ll win veterans.

Between now and Election Day attention will shift to the down-ballot races, those governors, senators and House races, and Republicans will find their candidates are too conservative. They have the Tea Party to thank for that, and after the election there will be a bloodletting.

I’ll be curious to see if Richard Mourdock wins in Indiana. He’s the Toilet Paper guy who beat Sen. Dick Lugar in the primary, but now Mourdock’s in trouble. His opponent is a conservative Democrat, Joe Donnelly; he may have a shot. He isn’t very talented and he doesn’t stand for much, but at least he’s mainstream; Mourdock is not. Hoosiers are used to splitting their tickets. I’ll also be interested to see if John Gregg can pull an upset in the governor’s race; he’s folksy, a smalltown guy, and he’s likable. He needs a lot to break his way in the next two months, but as a former Speaker of the state House, he knows what he’s doing. It would be very important to LGBTs in Indiana if Gregg can come from behind over Rep. Mike Pence, who’s already announced his anti-Gay, “pro-family” witchhunt if he gets elected. Indiana Democrats are going to need a lot of money, but Romney and the Tea Party are certainly a cause for hope now.

When the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Obamacare, Rep. Mike Pence (R-Indiana) compared the decision to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The bottom line: Romney’s going to depress turnout. That gives Democrats a chance to win.

Pay no attention to Fineman, he’s more worried about covering his hiney than covering the news. Obama’s got this one, and America will be safe for four more years.++

Even older Republicans have come to trust this man with foreign policy and the military. He killed off Osama bin Laden, and Mitt Romney did not.

Fetishized Homophobia Isn’t Love

What’s he doing, surrendering like a faggot? Or showing himself off like an assertive man who knows what he’s got and knows what he wants?

Do we respect him for showing off, or do we reject him?

Do we think, deep down, only faggots show their ass, and Straight guys are always better than Gay guys?

Or do we find him stellarly attactive for being who he is?

Forget your politics right now; who gets you hard, Straight guys or Gay guys?

Are Straight guys better because they were born that way, just like we are?  Is heterosexuality the definition of masculinity?

If it is, Gay guys can never measure up – even when we’re superior to Straight guys.

So let’s get off this whole superior-inferior thinking, and look at ourselves as we are.

What’s your definition of masculinity? What’s your definition in your head, and what’s your definition in your gonads?

Can you sexualize Gay guys, and see them as horny fuckers? Or do you secretly think that all Gay guys, by definition, are inferior to Straight guys?

A lot hangs on your answer. If you think all Gay guys are bitches, you cannot respect yourself. You’re like a woman, and Straight guys say women are bitches.

You can go to Pride Day, throw beads around and show off your torso and crotch, but if you think Straight guys are better, when you’ll never be Straight even if you’re the father of four, you’ll always end up on the short end of the stick. You’re homophobic, just like you’ve been taught to be.

That isn’t liberation, it’s oppression. Why on earth would you agree to it?

Why would you fetishize Straight guys as better than you?

If all you know is Straight culture, with its doubtful claim of superiority, why did you ever go to Pride Day?

Gay men are not women.

We’re men! Men are who we like.

We’re not pussies, or bitches, or any of those other terms flung all over the internet, both to turn us on and to put us down.

The sexiest guys alive are two butch guys who decide to get it on.

They don’t care what the dominant culture says. They want each other, so they get together, and they don’t care what anyone says.

They choose to be free. Once you’re free, you can suck or fuck or get fucked, it doesn’t matter, as long as it feels good and is humane.

Important point; keep it humane.

Sometimes I think about compiling a list of all the websites that fetishize homophobia, where a mere kiss is thought faggy. But the list would grow to hundreds, then thosuands, while no one even asks, “Does this enhance our self-esteem, the way love does?”

Love is what proves this all wrong.

Guys are born Gay; shrug shrug. Sometimes they meet each other, and fall in love, and have great sex, and even when they don’t they might stick together for a lifetime.

Get married even, right in The New York Times.

Most of us don’t get married, and question whether Gay love is even possible, just as anti-Gay activists do. They proclaim we’re all dead by 40, based on a cursory look at obits in Gay newspapers in 1982.

But many longtime lovers, together 30 or 40 years, do get married in states where we’re allowed to. Most of the Gay wedding announcements in The New York Times  involve grooms who are middle-aged.

They inspire me – and I don’t want to know their sexual history. Their public commitment matters more than what their junk did in 1977.

Guys who put their names and faces in the newspaper inspire the rest of us to love. But wedding announcements are not sexual histories, and present a different image than popular porn sites, where frank degradation is the biggest turnon.

Homophobia caused us to break apart sex and love. Can liberation put them back together again?

My book The Gospel According to Gay Guys attempts to show one model of hot fucking married Gay sex. You may not like it; it hasn’t set the world on fire.

But it does present something different from a thousand “Faggot, suck my dick” websites anyone can find.

I think it all depends on definitions; psychic programming, turnons, commerce.

If you want to make money from Gay guys, promote the sexual superiority of Straight guys. It’s how we all were raised, so why not? That’s how we fetishize homophobia.

Actual Straight guys are more complex than any of them sold in Gay porn. Most of them really don’t care what turns you on – but oh, the Gay guys do!

I don’t blame my brothers for this attitude; it’s what we all were taught. But the reality of what Straight guys are really like – all their doubts, certainties, comforts and occasional threats – reveal why a genuinely comfortable Straight guy couldn’t care less who you poke or get poked by. Whatever feels good, do it.

Millions of Gay guys don’t feel that way. They reinforce shame for not being Straight, and liking a dick down your throat or up your ass.

They mock Pat Robertson but believe every word he says. They’re all “bitches, whores and cunts,” and every other female-hating term they can label each other with.

That isn’t Gay liberation. Gay lib means we like women and support their power, even if we don’t care to perform oral sex on them.

Women are beautiful. But to see all these thousands of Gay, anti-Gay websites, you’d think all men are rapists and Gay guys are sluts, whores, pigs, slaves, psychotics.

We’re more advanced politically than we are psychologically and sexually. How weird is that?

Let me close with positive affirmations of what makes for really hot sex, and real liberation.

• “I know you.” This is what happens when the stud who’s fucking you has the decency and intelligence to recognize how much you want to get fucked, and how attracted you are to him because he sees you as you really are, and doesn’t disrespect you, but respects you for giving him your ass willingly.

That Flash of Mutual Recognition™ is the most exciting moment in life. He knows you, he loves what you like because you like him. He doesn’t spit in your face, he kisses you.

You may never see him again, but you’ll never forget him. He approves of me. We fit together.

How different this is from the fetishized homophobia of bitches, whores and sluts – female terms, though your hard dick is not female.

We don’t think of our women friends in those heterosexist terms; why do we think of ourselves that way? Because we’ve been taught by Gay-haters.

To me the butchest guy on the planet is a Gay guy who can fuck and get fucked; who can fall in love and not care what the world thinks; who can marry his man at 72 and 67 – or 32 and 27 – and not care what anyone thinks about that handsome photo in The New York Times.

God loves you, homoboy, so don’t fetishize abuse.

Instead, remember that Flash of Mutual Recognition™, where what you want and what I want match perfectly.

If God is love, he’s right there between you. Egging you on, talking dirty to you, just to see your kisses at the end.

God made us sexy; there’s never been any question about that. Gay guys are here to provide a brake

on unlimited reproduction.

The only thing Straight people know is “Be fruitful and multiply.” Don’t blame them, they’re doing right.

But don’t emulate them either. Don’t define yourself by their terms. You are not a woman, you’re a man.

You may well want to spread your legs and get fucked, but you’re still a man. That’s how God designed you!

If you’re a top who likes man-ass, take it without reference to the stereotypes. You’re a different kind; act like it. Be your full self, with all your love, passion and aggression.

And if the day comes to flip, roll over – and smile at your cute little boyfriend suddenly turned into a man.

I have tried, in my book, to illustrate this. But succeed or fail, it all comes down to your own attitude. Are Straight men better? Are Gay guys good? What will lead you to that Flash of Mutual Recognition?

“This is exactly who I am! This is exactly who you are! And man, I love you for this.”

It doesn’t always happen, but when it does – when you hold out for it – you might just end up in The New York Times.++

My current imagining of Kent in “The Gospel According to Gay Guys.”

Thelma Glass Has Died; Lessons from Her Life

Thelma Glass (David Campbell/Alabama State University)

Professor Thelma Glass of Alabama State University has died. She was a principal organizer of the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955, the nonviolent action which propelled Martin Luther King, Jr. to world prominence. She was 96. Go here to read her inspiring story in The New York Times.

I want to focus on a detail we often overlook: people like Rosa Parks weren’t just forced to sit in the back of the bus. One hears that phrase so commonly these days that its meaning is weak tea.

Instead Blacks were told, “Sit in the back and give up your seat to a White person.”

Male, female, it didn’t matter; any White person. An able-bodied kid, even one who couldn’t sit still. This was the law.

In fact it was psychological warfare—brainwashing, programming, conditioning. “You matter so little that you have to stand up so a snot-nosed kid can sit down.”

The entire Jim Crow system of segregation was built to control people’s minds as much as their bodies. Colored drinking fountains—movie balconies—waiting rooms—swimming pools—all were intended to keep the people feeling down; worthless, helpless, confused, intimidated, separated, alienated and self-destructive.

If you can control people’s minds, their bodies follow.

There wasn’t a single White person, ever, who believed they would be harmed if they had to drink from the same fountain as a Black person. When you’re thirsty, water is water—and on the farm, it all comes from the same tin cup or gourd, and everyone cheerfully drank after each other without the least concern about hygiene. Remember when you were a kid? “Gimme a drink of that Co-Cola.”

No cooties to be found—including when a Black person got out of her seat on the bus and a White person plopped his butt right down where she’d been a-sitting.

It was largely psychological. But if you dared not to cooperate in your own brainwashing, they’d burn down your house, or bomb your Sunday School.

I’m still stunned by all the violence Whites were willing to commit to maintain their little advantages. I’d guess their self-esteem was pretty shaky too.

And it’s not as if the violence doesn’t continue, or the little mind games; just this week news bubbled up about a White Baptist church in Mississippi that refused to allow a Black, heterosexual couple to get married, purely for reasons of race. This couple had been attending there awhile, but when it came time to stand up in the White folks’ sanctuary, some of the members threw a fit—and the timid, “sensitive” pastor let them.

Thank God you don’t live in Miss’sippi. Or if you do, just slip out the back, Jack. There must be 50 ways to leave the Worst State Ever.

Now let’s bring it home to us. What did Prof. Glass do, and why did it have such an impact?

What does it mean for us today?

What she did, with Rosa Parks, Dr. King and the Montgomery Women’s Political Council, was remove one of the cornerstones in the edifice of racist psychological warfare.

Eventually, with a great deal of suffering and death, the rest of the structure fell down. Black folk stopped letting White people control their thoughts.

I think this applies directly to LGBTs.

The most homophobic people on earth are Gay, Lesbian or Bisexual. We’ve internalized homophobia; we’ve let Straight people brainwash us and control our thoughts.

We then turn around and use their weapons against ourselves, and each other.

I think we do this as much now as we ever did. Psychologically we’ve not made much progress at all. We’re outwardly more free, but our most casual, everyday conversations are laden with Straight people’s thought patterns.

Every “camp” remark ever made is homophobic, dividing the world into worthy Straight people and unworthy Gay people, or worthy men and unworthy women. (Because, you know, to be Gay and male really means you’re just a woman.)

Does this mean we give up our humor? Not at all. It means start being funny for a change!

My Jack was a wit; he kept everyone in stitches. He almost never made camp remarks. He liked Gay people, and fought for us.

Here we are, in 2012, and we’ve still got Gay men signing up for non-existent cures. Evidently they can’t think straight – or Straight’s the only way they can think, and they hate themselves.

We’ve still got Tyler Clementis jumping off bridges. That should teach the camp crowd something – but instead they always blame someone else.

We still churn out devastating statistics on LGBT depression, smoking, alcoholism and drug addiction, and tons of new HIV infections.

We worry about children being bullied, instead of teaching them to fight back.

There is plenty of blame to go around for our personal problems and social problems – but we’re perpetrators too, and we never take responsibility for it. We’ve got more denial than all the rivers of Egypt.

You can’t watch 10 snippets of Gay porn without seeing 8 snippets of homo-hatred. “You like that, bitch?”

Um, no, I don’t. We are not female.

We’re just Gay, that’s all.

I would like us to stop oppressing each other and ourselves. We can’t do much, directly at least, about anti-Gay violence, but we can stop thinking like some Straight people do.

Remember, the oppressor’s as terrified as we are. Do you think those ’50s crackers didn’t know they were doing wrong, bombing churches, burning crosses, shooting people dead?

They knew, all right, and so do we.

It isn’t a crime, when you’re an oppressed person, to absorb the mind games and thought patterns drummed into your head.

But it is a crime to keep thinking that way once you lose your chains. And it’s a felony to make other victims keep feeling bad about themselves.

It’s the old programming principle; garbage in, garbage out.

We’re still putting out an awful lot of garbage, every day, in most of our thoughts and conversations.

“Pride” is supposed to be the antidote to this, but it takes more than marching in a parade or buying a T-shirt. It takes deep soul-searching to root out all the bad programming.

There’s nowhere to go to get a brain transplant. If there were, none of us would smoke, drink or get HIV.

What we can do, though, is act. Ms. Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus, and got arrested. She knew she would; she’d planned it all out.

Then once the news of her refusal reached Ms. Glass, she acted too; the Women’s Political Council acted – and within four days all the buses were empty.

The Black folk who depended on the buses had to make other arrangements. Some walked and some caught a ride with a friend.

They all knew instinctively how important it was to grab onto that cornerstone and yank it.

They didn’t need to go to therapy to change the voices in their heads; they had a tremendous advantage over LGBTs in the support of their families, who always knew racism was wrong.

This isn’t to say there weren’t Black folk who were scared to death to challenge the system; there were. The longer the bus boycott went on, the more internal dissent there was. It’s hard to get someplace when you don’t have transportation.

But they acted, and within a year they won, and only later did they stop to think about what they’d done and what it meant.

The larger civil rights movement was rife with internal dissent; the historical record shows that Dr. King got stabbed in the back more often by fearful Black pastors than any other group. But still he kept it together, even as younger, more militant leaders emerged, without his principles of non-violence. They didn’t win the Nobel Peace Prize, he did.

LGBTs have made remarkable strides as everyone now sees. We’ve been to the mountaintop and seen the promised land.

But if we want to be actors and not just reactors; if we want to have real pride and not just the kind you buy; if we want political change as well as inner peace and joy, we have to change our behavior and our thoughts.

We have to stop oppressing each other as a crooked way of showing/hiding how oppressed we still feel.

If you find it hard to change your thoughts, change your behavior; boycott Chick-Fil-A – and don’t be too quick to laud Target for running Gay ads and selling Pride trinkets just two short years after donating $150,000 in corporate money to a bigot running for governor of Minnesota.

Penney’s, Ellen’s sponsor, didn’t slip corporate cash to bigots first.

And don’t tell me that you can’t keep up with all the terrible companies, so therefore you don’t do jack shit.

Don’t tell us that you love Jesus or the pope or the Mormon church so much that you’re sticking with them no matter what – or we’ll come and pull you off the bus so you can walk. (You can still love your church, but don’t give them one thin dime as long as they treat LGBTs like the antichrist.)

Don’t tell us that you’re voting for Mitt Romney, “even though you disagree with him on this issue,” without expecting the rest of us to call you out. The only thing the Republican Party stands for now is greed – so we know exactly who your god is, the Almighty Dollar. You didn’t get the Gay gene without also getting the Gay compassion, the Gay empathy.

The more we act to liberate ourselves and others, the more our thoughts realign. (If we try changing our thoughts before our actions, it takes forever.)

Most of all stop oppressing other LGBTs with your idiotic remarks and pathetic humor.

Gay women are women; Gay men are men; and yes, you can play with those roles and gender boundaries all you want – as long as you don’t oppress others.

Bisexuals are real people with real feelings, so stop trying to make them fit your brainwaves.

Transgenders are allowed to be themselves – so hire one.

Imagine the world you want to live in, and your place in it; then act so that it comes true, and your thoughts will follow you. Create a world in which everyone is free.

That’s what Thelma Glass did, and she wasn’t much different from you or me.

But what made her different was that she acted. First Rosa, then Thelma, and suddenly it all went viral.++

What Is It That Occurs in a Sacrament?

A priest friend of mine performing a baptism; Mom holds the baby, Dad follows the service, the child’s siblings are next to him, and the godparents are there too, to promise they’ll assist in raising the child in Christ.

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve found myself having a running discussion with my close friend Stephanie about infant baptism. She doesn’t believe in it; I do.

This discussion is mostly one-way; she’s been busy with family visitors and now is on a trip to the Midwest. The other day, however, while helping her aging mother clean out the garage, they ran across Stephanie’s baptismal certificate from an Episcopal church in Detroit; it was the last page of a commemorative book they used to give out. She was baptized as an infant.

I know her today as a very faithful Christian, someone who has been on a widely divergent spiritual journey over the years, from the Episcopal church through Messianic Jews to her current home, which is a conservative, non-denominational, contemporary megachurch.

She’s married to a great guy, who’s quite the amateur Biblical scholar. Together they’ve raised five kids, all with Biblical names. I love that; these are thoughtful, devoted parents. Stephanie’s a stay-at-home mom who’s home-schooled the kids; her youngest is in high school. The others have all done well in college, career and family.

She’s not someone you’d expect from this description to be my good friend – which shows you that’s she a more complex person than my description indicates. I don’t have any other home-schooling moms on my friends list. She doesn’t berate me about being Gay. I don’t think she particularly approves but she’s not a judgmental person – and it’s important for those of us who are Gay to remember that there are a fair number of people like her that way. Just because someone adheres to a different theology of sexuality doesn’t make them a screaming homophobe. I feel free to tell Stephanie anything that’s going on with me, knowing she is always supportive of me as her friend.

GLBTs need not to stereotype the Christians all the time. There’s more to life than  you see on TV.

Stephanie reminds me a little of a woman I used to work with, a social worker at a mental health center. She was a stalwart of the Evangelical Free Church, which she described as “very conservative” but also “not judgmental at all.” When I was setting up an advisory board for dailyoffice.org, I went to her because I wanted the prayer sites to be ecumenical. We use the Episcopal framework as given in The Book of Common Prayer, but there’s no doctrine in its structure; anyone can use it, it’s 99.9% free of controversy. That’s one reason the BCP has been internationally successful for centuries; it works for Catholics and Protestants both, like the Episcopal Church itself.

But baptism, it turns out, is an area where Stephanie and I have a disagreement, a simple difference in views. But it’s about one of the most important teachings in Christianity, so it leaves me puzzled to be close to someone who sees this central act of the faith so differently. Once again I’m challenged to love across the lines; the normal human impulse I think would be to start an argument, “How can you not see what I’m saying?”

But we’re not going to have an argument; I wouldn’t want to hurt her feelings like that. Still, I am perplexed. The only analogy I can think of is it must be like what would happen when an East German physician, professor or lawyer happened to fall in love with a West German businessman. She could denounce him as a capitalist lackey, or put on same jazz and ask him to dance.

Churches are not very good at teaching us how to tolerate differences – and if Episkies can’t do it, nobody can. We’ve been peacefully disagreeing with each other since Elizabeth was Queen the first time.

One reason Stephanie and I hit it off so well on the Daily Office site is that, despite her Baptist-Fundamentalist background, she has a real appreciation for liturgy, thanks to all her Jewish friends; a love of the ancient music and forms of Christian prayer; and an ongoing interest in the Anglican way of doing things. (She’s pursued the latter exclusively among the schismatic set so far – and if I can tolerate that, I can bloody tolerate anything.) So she’s quite aware and astute. As a mother and teacher, she’s very interested in forms that “act out” the truth being told in a story. Seeing and participating in the action is how children and adults learn. We do something, and afterward we appreciate what we’ve just done. Thus she’s very interested in Advent practices, for instance; the wreath, the ritual lighting of candles, Advent calendars for the kids, etc. She’s even devised her own rituals for Lent, because both seasons are about waiting and watching, even though the content is different. This year she hosted a seder for Passover.

So why can’t she get baptism? She takes it as a symbolic thing that comes after the really important part, being “born again” as an act of will, or an assent to the lordship of Christ. That moment of recognition, she thinks, is when a person gets saved. Afterward the water of baptism is a nice thing to do, and even necessary (since it’s all over the New Testament).

I don’t see it that way at all. I think the action of baptism, the liturgical acting-it-out, is the moment God conveys the grace. It doesn’t depend on our will at all; God gives us faith as a gift.

The Psalmist says God knew us “in our mother’s womb” and called us before we were born. Jesus says, “Unless you have faith like a child’s, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.”

So naturally I believe in infant baptism, which has been practiced at least since the 2nd century A.D., and was universal until the Reformation. But even today most Protestants do infant baptism, meaning the vast majority of the world’s Christians; Presbyterians, Methodists, Orthodox, Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans, everybody almost except Baptists, Pentecostals, Amish and Mormons – who aren’t really company I want to be with.

Baptists say, “But kids don’t know what they’re doing; they can’t understand what it means.” To which the rest of us reply, “Neither do grownups! Even after a lifetime of faith and study, nobody really ‘understands’ everything it means.”

If you want to delve more deeply into the pros and cons of infant baptism, go here; Wikipedia gives a brief and reasonable overview. But the question of baptism leads me to a broader question, what do we mean by sacraments? Can we learn something about baptism by studying the other times of liturgical acting-out-the-story?

Before I leave baptism, let me add something telling: Stephanie’s daughter and son-in-law recently adopted a little boy, age five or six; it was a joyous event. And while they did not get him baptized into the Church and their Christian family, they did have a private commitment ceremony for him at home. They made the same kinds of vows that godparents make in infant baptism, “We will raise you in the household of faith.” And they welcomed him into the family.

I think, for believers in credo-baptism of adults only, they absolutely did the right thing for this child. They felt a need and created a liturgy; excellent! Baptism would have been much better, in the church, with a priest or minister, in the Name of the Trinity; but short of that they did what they felt was necessary.

If it’s necessary, why not go ahead and dunk the kid? Don’t leave it to chance, I’d say.

But really, the issue comes down to whether the sacrament is the efficacious life-changing event, or if it’s just symbolic of something. I think the Baptist practice devalues baptism (though of course they see it differently). And to me it’s very telling that the same churches that don’t baptize almost never have Holy Communion.

There are very few times in the New Testament when Jesus issued orders; “Do this in remembrance of me” is one of his few imperatives.

Baptism is the other. He himself went to John the Baptist to receive the sacrament from him in the Jordan River.

How much more evidence do these people need, anyway? (“Oh, but he was an adult!”)

The issue turns on whether the liturgical act makes the change occur, or whether it happens when Billy Joe Jimbob, who’s been drunk half his life, finally decides to beg God’s forgiveness so he can get help before he kills himself.

I’m all for Billy Joe turning to the Lord; too bad he wasn’t raised in the Lord in the first place. Or didn’t stick to it, whichever.

We all must be delighted, and are, with every conversion experience. But then to seal the deal, you get your sorry behind to the river first chance you get.

With other people around; with the entire church; and with God’s minister or priest. Make your vows in public, Bubba!

That way the next time we see you drunk we can get in your face over it.

Now then, every Christian wants “communion” with God. We want to feel close; we want to know God’s presence in our lives and God’s love for us.

Yet here are all these Baptists and megachurches who never use the Communion Christ himself ordained. What’s up with that?

They think “preaching the Word” is the most important thing. It isn’t!

Preaching is some guy or gal standing up front and telling you what to think, by telling you what they think.

One hopes they have some educational background for this, but that’s not always the case.

Making preaching the center of the church service leads people to go to whatever church has the most popular preacher. Some of them are razzle-dazzle guys; most of them are fast talkers with the gift of gab.

They thunder, they shout, they prance, they dance; some of them sing, or get offstage so better singers can put on a performance. They’ll tell you you must be “born again,” and then they’ll tell you to vote Republican and hate the Gays, and then they’ll make you give them money.

No wonder so many of them are corrupt.

Preaching is no substitute for Bible study. It’s no substitute whatever for giving you the bread and wine Jesus commanded you to receive as his Body and Blood.

It is the act of receiving – eating, drinking – that makes communion real. It’s not an emotion you have; it’s an objective fact.

Feelings are fleeting; who knows when your mindset and circumstances will line up properly so you “feel God’s communion”?

Take and eat anyway – because it works.

Afterward you might feel kind of happy. It might not always happen, but chances are good you’ll feel better.

That’s why Jesus instituted the sacrament.

He knows you got drunk last night; he knows you were mean to your friends. He forgives you anyway, in the act of your receiving him.

It’s the act that makes it effective – even though it’s liturgical and ritualistic, which all those Protestants have decided they don’t like, because if the Pope’s in favor of it they can’t possibly agree with anything he says.

I’ve told Stephanie more than once, that’s why you see crummy little Baptist churches with steeples and no cross on top; the Pope puts a cross on all his steeples to lift high that Cross and make it the thing you see when you look to heaven. But the Prots all think they should never do anything like the Pope does. It’s pathetic – and it’s heretical. Not the best Christianity.

I wouldn’t give you two cents for the Roman Catholic Church as an institution, but their core theology I think is correct. Jesus is there in the bread and wine, because the church as a community has called on him to be present. And he comes to us, as he came to his disciples, in the eating and drinking.

We all actually know this, because one of the lesser sacraments has never changed: you’re not married until the minister says, “I now pronounce you…” That’s the moment the change happens.

True, they’re only words, but they’re very meaningful; you just got married. It changes your state, your status; you weren’t married before, but now you are.

By professing your love and commitment, giving and receiving vows, you have acted out marriage in front of the public, the church and the minister or priest.

It’s the same with every sacrament; absolution, confirmation, ordination, and anointing. There comes a moment at which it becomes effective.

We don’t know how exactly; theologians argue about that, but I don’t have a need to know how. I need to know, “Now I am confirmed, or married, or forgiven, or in communion with, or ordained, or spiritually healed.”

So Billybob, it ain’t about you calling on the Lord. He called on you first!

It’s a miracle, that’s what it is; too bad those Baptists practice it so seldom.

OR: “Stephanie, how can you possibly not see this!!!”

Instead of arguing, I simply pointed out that the baptism in which she was joined to the Lord obviously worked, even though she was a little bitty kid and doesn’t remember a thing.

The efficacy of sacraments was brought home to me recently by the Daily Office lectionary, where the lesson from Numbers in the Old Testament had nothing to do with baptism. Instead, the story concerned the death of the first priest, Aaron:

Numbers 20:22-29 (NEB)

The whole community of Israel set out from Kadesh and came to Mount Hor. At Mount Hor, near the frontier of Edom, the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Aaron shall be gathered to his father’s kin. He shall not enter the land which I promised to give to the Israelites, because over the waters of Meribah you rebelled against my command. Take Aaron and his son Eleazar, and go up Mount Hor. Strip Aaron of his robes and invest Eleazar his son with them, for Aaron shall be taken from you: he shall die there.” Moses did as the LORD had commanded him: they went up Mount Hor in sight of the whole community, and Moses stripped Aaron of his robes and invested his son Eleazar with them. There Aaron died on the mountaintop, and Moses and Eleazar came down from the mountain. So the whole community saw that Aaron had died, and all Israel mourned him for thirty days.

What struck me about this passage is the sequence of events. The Israelites, after all their wandering, are getting close to the Promised Land. But God decides it’s time for Aaron to die. He’s been a good priest, but he also had that major “golden calf” failure awhile back, as well as not following directions at Meribah when the Israelites complained about not having any water, so God decides Aaron doesn’t get to see the fulfillment of the promise – and Moses won’t either. God directs Moses to take Aaron and Eleazar up the mountain. They go up “in sight of the whole community,” strip off Aaron’s priestly vestments, and put them on his son. Eleazar is thus ordained priest in his father’s place, and Aaron, without his vestments, is naked, bereft of his identity and his role. Then he dies.

It reads as if the stripping of his clothes is what caused him to die. The three of them acted out a liturgy; you could call it a death ritual for priests. Once the vestments (that is, his special robes) were gone, Aaron himself was gone. Stripping him did him in.

(I love that the Israelites give him a full month of mourning, in recognition of the faithful service he did provide most of the time. No doubt they marked those thirty days by performing ritual acts – just as the United States mourned President Kennedy’s assassination by lowering the flags to have staff, and keeping them there for thirty days. In that era it meant raising, then lowering the flag, every morning and night. Soldiers, families and Scouts in 1963 all remember the ritual. Everyone watched in silence as the flag-bearers did their solemn work.)

I wish that Stephanie, steeped as she is in the religious experience of the Jews (and therefore of Jesus), understood the centrality and efficacy of the sacraments as liturgical acts.

I wish that Methodists, Presbyterians and everybody else who neglects the Holy Communion would obtain better minds. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism (as an Anglican priest), begged his followers to participate in Communion every Sunday as Christians had always done – but they didn’t then and they still don’t. They do it once a month, or once a quarter, or once a year, and some of them don’t do it at all. On their deathbed maybe, they should live so long; or maybe the minister doesn’t get there in time and they expire, never having fulfilled Christ’s plain command.

The act of baptism is what makes someone a Christian. It’s the water that’s symbolic, not the act. The act is a miracle. That’s what I believe.++

James Tissot: The Death of Aaron (Jewish Museum of New York)

Pearl of Great Price

My purpose in writing now is to understand myself.

Which instantly admits that I do not understand myself. I don’t; I am a mystery to me.

You are a mystery to you, and we’re all in the same boat. Call in the psychologists – though I can tell you right now they’re mysteries too.

I’m trying to understand how I spend every day cranking out brilliant performances no one sees.

If my performances really were brilliant, wouldn’t people come flocking? But they don’t.

Two explanations: A) my performances are not brilliant, or B) no one knows where the brilliance is. If they knew where it was they’d go and buy tickets.

Today I spent all morning responding to a Leonardo fan named Mary Clara, whose parish church is right across the street from a major research university, and who liked my post here on Copernicus and Kepler Day – the medieval astronomers who described the Milky Way as it actually is.

My simple idea was that Episcopal churches should hold public blessings of scientists.

She picked up on that, and she may enlist her parish to hold such a party next year. Right across the street, after all.

Their feast day is May 23, which comes at the end of the academic year in this country. It might be a good day to shake out some holy water at Evensong.

What I most liked about my post was the idea of inviting Ei-ichi Negishi (Nobel Prize, Chemistry, 2011) to give the sermon. (He lives three miles from my parish door.)

Episcopalians don’t let anyone Not Approved take their pulpits. But maybe we could make an exception once a year?

What would a scientist say on such an occasion? I don’t think Dr. Negishi’s a Christian, so he’d have to finesse that somewhat – but what would he actually say?

We won’t know unless we invite him – and we probably won’t, because good ideas get ground down by big wheels, so it was all just a fantasy anyway.

By some blogger in Indiana. Oh, puh-lease.

Should I tell you about the excellent comments I make every day on The Indianapolis Star website? Or the Journal and Courier, or The Times?

I don’t understand myself.

The fact is I get plenty of responses as I fight every day for Truth, Justice, the American Way and Gay People Loved by Jesus Christ. I comment on the news of the day, some politician’s latest idiotic remark, with an incisive, well-crafted and devastating squelch, and 40 Likes show up on Facebook.

Which means I sold 40 tickets at $0 per.

I don’t get this. Why am I doing this? What does it matter?

Is there anyone out there? Why am I performing if there’s nobody out there?

I leave it to you to judge the quality of the performance. I’m often terribly proud, but the applause is scant, and I’m really not living for applause anyway, but the joy of giving the performance.

I become myself when I go onstage. Offstage I’m a very average Joe. The yard needs mowing, the kitchen isn’t clean.

I’ve written a book (which I bleat to you about endlessly) that is, I think, worth your 40 Likes. Or even 400, or more.

I can’t assess the actual fact, that’s entirely up to the audience.

I can however tell you what it’s like to stand on this stage and not get much of an audience.

Dick Clark died recently; he had no talent whatsoever. He made hundreds of millions delivering the worst schlocky TV Americans have ever seen; he was the Junk Show King.

But we liked him, and he was eternally young, and he gave us rock ‘n’ roll on New Year’s Eve, plus game shows and Miss Universe pageants.

It doesn’t take talent to make money. It takes a commitment to make money, which Dick Clark had like no other. If you want tits and ass, he had tits and ass.

Clearly I’m in the wrong business, because political comment, however well-constructed, dors not deliver tits and ass.

I have no idea what I’m doing here. I’m almost as bad as Worley Rodehaver, a Cincinnati goofball who is dearly loved and outstandingly ineffective. (Credit to Worley: he’s made his appearance more goofy every year. As if he enjoys his goofiness; as if it’s his calling card you’ll remember.)

I used to live in his house, which tells you everything you need to know about my popularity.

Back when I was cute I should have hooked up with Calvin Klein. If I had, I’d now be famous.

Instead I peeled layers of wallpaper off Worley Rodehaver’s walls. Those 40 Likes tell you I’m a really fine writer, considering I once performed at Worley’s dinner theater.

I attribute my success and lack of it to a decision I made one day in 1966, as I was walking past the county courthouse outside my mother’s drugstore. (Here is the pearl of great price.)

“I do not want to make money.

“I am not going into business.

“Money doesn’t matter if you lose your own soul.”

(Of course, if your soul would also enjoy food and clothing, you’d better make money; but I was 16 and didn’t know that.)

Forty Likes on Facebook are pretty darn good. Jesus really does love Gay guys, and I don’t care whether saying so makes me popular in Indiana or not.

Sometimes I fret a little, though; knowing that if I wanted a real career, I don’t belong in the Midwest. But I do like where I’m from, so fuck ’em.

Small towns need activists too.

I would like the current gigantic opus to be a gigantic hit, Dick Clark-style, #1 on Billboard. But I don’t have the talent or connections to achieve that.

Dick Clark knew popularity; that was his business, like Casey Kasem and his Top 40 Countdown.

So here I labor, soon to die in some obscurity. Have I mattered, Lord? Did I make a contribution?

Of course I did.

I wouldn’t give you 14¢ for all the suckups around Calvin Klein.

I met a few of those people, and I didn’t much care for them. I lived in New York twice, and saw enough.

It’s a wonderful city, but it all depends on sucking up to money, and I wouldn’t do that. Which is why I only get 40 Likes now.

I love every one of the fans I have.

I think they are better than a packed house on Broadway; so I will labor alone.

Fame is frankly rather empty. The world didn’t really mourn Dick Clark, who wasn’t much more than a countdown guy.

It won’t mourn me either; a few folks will, but not most people.

I would like, in my life, to have one great success. I would like to have that #1 hit.

But if it doesn’t happen, I sang anyway.

That’s the most important thing, as I knew when I was 16, walking past the courthouse outside my mother’s drugstore.

Just sing. They may or may not buy tickets; just sing.++

(Harold Copping)

I Writ the Hole Thang in Hoosier Twang, Almost

Some Hoosiers are sad this year that native son Jim Nabors, who is ailing, won’t be able to sing “Back Home Again in Indiana” at this year’s Indy “500.” He’s sung it for decades at the track. If Florence Henderson (from Dale, Indiana) performs it instead, who’s going to exclaim, “Goll-ee”?

Well now, the book is done, by golly, for the very last final time, and I’m here to tell ya’s it was fun to write so much Hoosier Twang. Land sakes, I love where I’m from!

Who doesn’t like this gal?

It’s about these two young men who fall in love; one’s city, one’s country. One’s tall, one’s short; one’s dark, one’s blond. They’s both of ’em hot, and they loves each other.

My mother would probably die. But, um, she actually took care of that already, and I hope she’s havin’ fun up there in the clouds readin’ about them two boys-a mine.

I wrote these guys to be so close to each other that contrasts are obviously necessary. Jamie’s speeches are meticulously crafted, while Kent’s, uh, freelance.

The city boy’s originally from the country, though, which oughta tell ya somethin’. If he weren’t, I’m not sure they could have ever quite gotten together. As happens in any relationship, they influence each other in thought, word and deed. Toward the end of the story, Jamie loosens up a little. He can talk Hoosier with the best of ’em, which I compare to The Americanization of Emily, a wonderful ’60s film with Julie Andrews and Jimmy Garner.

“I’m grotesquely sentimental,” she said. “I fall in love at the drop of a hat.”

Kent’s the butch one; farmboys always is, ’cause of all that time they spend plowin’ up the dirt. I dunno, it makes ’em butch somehow.

But Jamie’s studly too, which is one of the themes I explore. Gayboys get so hung up on masculinity, who’s on top and who ain’t. When ya think about it, it’s kind of a useless thing to worry about; ya are what ya are, buddy. If bugs in the house scare ya, then they do; ya can’t help it, except with fly-swatters, Raid ‘n’ a bazooka, so don’t be too hard on yerself. “Ya’s just that way, that’s all; ain’t nothin’ wrong with it, even if I do kinda tease ya sometimes.”

The city boy can build things the country boy cannot; that’s one of the reasons I like this book.

Mind you, it’s been 40 years since I heard an authentic Hoosier Twang; our native dialect has been obliterated by pervasive television and radio, where all the announcers speak Standard American English (which is Midwestern, by the way). For reasons I’ve long forgotten – because I was cruising – I ran across these two guys in the woods. We spoke; I don’t remember the first guy, but there was this fellow from Monticello (Indiana, due east of here maybe 30-40 miles) who took my breath away. I couldn’t tell you what he looked like, but I’ll never forget that twang.

I had to listen hard; I could barely understand him. I knew he was speaking English, but from a hundred years before.

He was what we all sounded like once upon a time. We were illiterate; we talked the best we could, but man oh man. That pore child was a mess.

I don’t remember what he looked like, whether he was hot or not; these two friends were probably ready to get it on with me, but I walked away. He was too different from me; my mother insisted on “creek,” not “crick,” “garage,” not “gararge” – “Chicago,” not “Shicahga.”

I don’t remember feeling superior to him; it was more that he was foreign.

Funny, that; he was native. I was foreign.

My mother grew up dirt-poor, but she insisted that we speak Standard English. And I have ever since; it was a kind of loyalty test, and of course I was loyal to my mother.

She didn’t want us held back because of how we spoke.

She was doing us a favor – though now I wish I’d had a tape recorder while tramping in those woods and hearing what Honest Abe used to sound like.

People hated Lincoln; his voice was high-pitched and he sounded like the prairie he came from. He overcame that with the eloquence of the Gettysburg Address.

The Hoosier Twang has been lost. We still drawl our way through most of our sentences, especially among friends, but the old dialects have been buried.

I’m a little sorry to see them go; not entirely sorry, because education’s a good thing, but losing our twang has cost us our history, and the teachers never mentioned any of that.

“Creek!” “Chicago!” I remember just a few old words.

I’d be even poorer than I am if I spoke the old dialect; that was probably why Mom was so insistent. I don’t blame her, she did me a favor. I learned; I’ve been a careful speaker ever since.

Well, except for this: my brother Steve, who’s gone now too. He was from Northwest Indiana, same as I am; he got the lectures too, and attended to them just like I have.

But then he moved to southern Indiana, and being there changed how he came across.

He didn’t want to speak a different language than his customers did; he adapted, he relaxed. Good for him.

He managed small electric companies, co-ops and such, after spending years rising through the ranks at NIPSCO in the northern part of the state.

If you look up Hoosier Twang online, Wikipedia wants to collapse it into “Midland American English.” This is unfortunate, not detailed enough; the article lacks nuance – when the fact is that language is largely a result of geography and demographics. If there’s a hill that “people from here” don’t cross, “people from there” speak a little differently. Scotland and Wales are still bitching about being part of Great Britain, centuries after England walloped those places. (And God bless ’em for it; uniformity is not the ultimate goal here.)

Steve started talking a little southern; and in our last few years together, after Mom died, I did too.

The Hoosier Twang is not primarily Southern; the state borders Kentucky, which has its own rich accent, but the Twang isn’t southern, it’s northern. And it’s illiterate. I’m not ashamed of that; why would I be?

The state I live in was settled by two main routes: by the Ohio River from Kentucky, which is where Steve settled, and by the National Road from Richmond on the Ohio border, the central and northern overland route. (Richmond is fairly prominent in That Book.)

Maybe I’m wrong, but I think the Twang is a northern Thang. Monticello is north; I could barely understand that guy.

Well, let’s come to some conclusions now; both Kent and Jamie are from northern Indiana. The Gay One is a mama’s boy and speaks precisely; the Not So/Just as Gay One is a daddy’s boy, who sounds just like the farm. (This makes sense; he’s a police officer, dealing with the public, and people who come into contact with law enforcement are not, by and large, BBC announcers. He adapts; if it helps him relate, he drawls.) (It does not hurt that he speaks exactly like his Daddy did.)

I hope people enjoy the book; I’ve had a blast writing it, even though it cost me ten years of blood, toil, tears and sweat.

Playwright and columnist George Ade.

Meanwhile this last fact: I live in the birthplace town of George Ade, who was once a very famous, rich columnist and playwright. A hundred years ago he had four comedies playing simultaneously on Broadway, a feat that wasn’t matched for 70 years, until Neil Simon came along. It mattered to me in childhood that a famous writer was born and grew up where I did.

He wrote in dialect, which must have been hilarious at the time. It isn’t anymore, he’s completely forgotten, except here. Come Tuesday I’m going to tour his nearby estate with members of the county historical society. He had quite a place, which he called Hazelden, with 1920’s flappers and pols and movie stars. I’m looking forward to the tour.

He never married; the amateur historians don’t want to think about that. He was a single man, a bachelor, and that was allowed; it still is. You could even call me a bachelor, though I wish you wouldn’t.

George loved football players; so do I. Purdue University’s stadium is called Ross-Ade thanks to him.

Purdue never touches a question about Mr. Ade’s sexual orientation. Neither does the county historical society.

But he built a beautiful house, neo-Tudor, and filled it with artworks, especially Chinese jade. I’m looking forward to this tour – though as a kid I snuck up into his house above the golf course to see all his wonderworks there.

The Book is done; hail, hail and all that. What I remember the most was that Monticello boy who spoke an indecipherable language.

He was Indiana; I’m just an imitation.++

Holy Week: Cling to Hope

This is a lot nearer than we think; it happened yesterday, it's happening now.

For most Christians this is Holy Week, the Week of Christ’s Passion, encompassing four of the most important events in the life of Jesus: his triumphant entry into Jerusalem (Palm Sunday) a few days before Passover; his last supper, the seder of Passover, which he transformed into the Sacrament of His Body and Blood (Maundy Thursday, including washing his disciples’ dirty feet); his execution nailed to a cross (Good Friday); and his returning to life, the Feast of the Resurrection, or Easter Day.

It’s a difficult week for people who take this seriously. It ends well, but getting to the end is hard work.

Late last night David, a member of my Daily Office prayer group on Facebook, sent me a wonderful message. He’s an elderly fellow, a Gay guy in Texas by way of New England, and he’d been to the Palm Sunday mass that morning. He wrote:

12:55 am CDT 04/02/012 I hope you are resting…Just had to BLAB….After all these years , I finally “GOT” what Palm Sunday is all about…The music was awesome…not the point..The processing with the children was awesome…NOT the point…when we all read the gospel, OUT LOUD, and in unison…I realized that I was there that day, throwing palms down, demanding that Jesus be crucified, watching Him die for me…. I was there just as certainly as the whole human race..That’s so neat..Praise God..!

I replied,

I remember where I was (Church of Our Saviour, Cincinnati) the first time I had to shout, “Crucify him!” It was shattering.

I’m very glad for your experience this year, and happy you told me about it. “Music awesome… not the point.”

It really is a privilege to receive messages like David’s – one of the unanticipated side benefits to me of running the group.

He’s referring to the practice in many Episcopal churches of making the congregation read aloud the Gospel lesson, recounting the crucifixion. Normally a deacon or priest reads the lesson from one of the Gospel books, but Palm Sunday is different: everyone reads together. This year the reading was from Mark. The climactic verses (Mark 15:12-14) are these: picture the congregation acting as a mob.

Pilate spoke to them again, “Then what do you wish me to do with the man you call the King of the Jews?” They shouted back, “Crucify him!” Pilate asked them, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him!”

The point David referred to is this: we’re the ones who crucify Jesus, and we do it every day, every year. Sin crucifies him; sinners do, and that’s us. We’re not always the active ones with the hammer and nails, but, y’know, we employ “little people” for that. Politicians, for instance.

It’s a very difficult thing to realize we are sinners – partly because the term has been so corrupted, narrowed and dumbed down by fundamentalist preachers that everyone thinks “sin” mostly amounts to whatever kind of sex somebody else doesn’t like. Sexual sin is real, but it’s not always consequential, and God is a lot less concerned about our sex lives, or that mean thing you said to Aunt Mildred last Thursday, than about the economic, political and military injustices we participate in. The prophets of the Old Testament were horrified by the injustices they saw in the world around them – especially the complete abandonment of women whose husbands had died, leaving widows and orphans to beg in the streets.

Judaism is a patriarchal religion. But God’s condemnation of Israel’s sexism is 3000 years old. The very first stirrings of “feminism” arise in the Hebrew Bible (and Jesus was a Jew).

(Sidebar: you can see the same mistreatment of women in other religions; Hindu widows used to throw themselves on their late husbands’ funeral pyres, not just to mourn them publicly, but to spare themselves from a life of beggary and degradation. Fortunately this is illegal in India now.)

Don't do this at home.

Thus sin is mostly about the destructive behavior of human institutions, though it also has a personal aspect that must never be discounted.

Put it this way: a Wall Street banker makes decisions, motivated by greed, which result in destroying 40% of the world economy. Meanwhile he’s also having an affair with his secretary (or his gym buddy). Which sin do you think matters more?

If the only religious mistake fundamentalists made was being anti-Gay, we could be allies on everything else. But no, they’re also gung-ho for war and the Greedy Old Party.

So this year on dailyoffice.org, I’m showing contemporary “sin pictures” for Holy Week. This morning I started with the murder of Shaima Alawadi, the Iraqi-born mother of five who fled Saddam Hussein in 1994, only to be bludgeoned to death in her California home last week by a Muslim-hating American.

Here’s her husband in mourning.

(Sam Hodgson/The New York Times)

This evening we’ve got a picture of mountaintop removal in West Virginia. I’ll reproduce the caption just as I wrote it on dailyoffice.org.

Sin: Blasting the top off a mountain by a coal company in West Virginia, USA, the most sacrilegious act I can imagine on God's green earth.

Tomorrow we get two horrors of the war in Afghanistan. The pictures aren’t gory, but they’re dramatic. And each time I let the guilty parties have it, in the words I write. I’m no prophet, these are strictly my opinions, but I’ve got so fed up TO HERE that I can’t keep quiet anymore. If anyone doesn’t like it, I don’t care.

But I have had to make one adjustment to hang onto my sanity and cling to hope: no more commenting on political news, anti-Gay or otherwise, on the websites of my home state newspapers. I’ve read them both since I was knee-high to a grasshopper (thank you, Mom, for making sure we were a newspaper-reading family), but I can’t take it anymore, so I’ve removed both sites from my bookmarks. Going there isn’t good for me. I write my comments to be very punchy – they usually get a lot of responses, pro and con – but they lead to feelings of bitterness in me, and they drain my energy.

The world is a screwed-up place. Get used to it.

Sin is all around us. Pray about it, repent of it, and learn to forgive the perpetrators, difficult though that is.

We are all perpetrators; here’s a chart, also running this evening, about mountaintop removal – and I benefit from cheap electricity too.

Coal mining companies are the most corrupt industry in the United States. They'll do anything; buy politicians, bribe judges, endanger their workers, ignore safety laws, poison the air and the water, cause cancer in their neighbors. There's no limit to their ruthlessness - all for cheap electricity that powers the economy. (Touch to enlarge.)

If you want to see crucifixion, you don’t have to go back 2000 years. Just look around you, it’s everywhere.

But remember that God has redeemed it all. Cling to hope. In a way this isn’t even about religion; it’s a beautiful world we live in, despite all our efforts to destroy it.

As a commenter said, more cleverly than I, on one of those newspaper sites:

My dog is pretty good most of the time, and he doesn’t even read the Bible.

Amen.++