Monthly Archives January 2016

The Scandal of Religion and Patriotism in the Malheur Insurrection

When I was a boy, my head stuffed with John Wayne movies and other tales of heroism from not-all-that-long-ago World War II, I used to set up my plastic army men in highly strategic fashion on rock outcroppings in vacant lots or patio walls. The correct placement of my men seemed crucial to the battle that would be unfolding, and I had particular fondness for one type of soldier who lay flat and outstretched on his stomach with a type of mini-machine gun in front of him, rattling away at the enemy while presenting the smallest possible target.

There weren’t many of him in any given soldier collection one bought at the neighborhood dime store in those pre-Walmart-and-Target days, so proper deployment was paramount. I remember always saving him for the choicest, most advantageous spots, me the general, the maestro, the master of my fantasy domain. And not unimportantly, a hero in my own mind.

I couldn’t ...

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The Fall of the Mighty: Paying Homage to History At Budapest’s Memento Park

All nations build monuments to their past, and almost since the beginning of recorded history, they have done so in the form of statues to heroic figures, set in or near town squares or much-traveled byways. And there the stone or marble monuments live, weathering nicely to a ripe lasting maturity, touchstones to national glory and its people’s best qualities.

But what about when the heroes so depicted have been part of an authoritarian regime, perhaps even a foreign occupier that rules its people with a barbed lethal fist, only to eventually be overthrown and driven from power? What happens to larger-than-life monuments then?

Many countries have faced this question. The Iraqi people answered it in 2003 when, with considerable help and encouragement from U.S. soldiers and tanks, a small contingent of them toppled a statue of the hated despot Saddam Hussein in Baghdad’s Al-Firdos Square...

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God Is (Fill in the Blank…)

My recent post on excerpts from the book, “The Best Things Ever Said About God,” reminded me, as I mulled subsequent comments and conversations about it over the past several days, of an exercise we did at the semi-annual retreat of my church’s Worship Associates a few months ago. Our minister gave us five minutes to consider this fill-in-the-blank sentence: “God is…”, and another five minutes to jot down our thoughts.

It was brief, it was largely off the top of our heads, and it was from a group of Unitarian Universalists, who have established a rather well-deserved reputation, it would seem, for their free-thinking conceptions of the divine. The result was a quite lovely and varied set of 15 brief reflections that seem worthy of sharing and pondering, particularly as a natural follow-up to the post earlier this week.

They were also anonymous, which I found added to my own ability to listen attent...

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The Twelve Best Excerpts From “The Best Things Ever Said About God”

God: the literary and conversation topic that just won’t go away.

Even when we’re not talking about God, we are.

Trying to improve, are we? Find greater purpose, figure out our next step, start to give back, leave a legacy?

God, God, God, God, God.

Wherever go matters of ultimate concern, there goes Grappling With God.

Great fiction: all about God, explicitly or not. (Though often about her absence.)

In his introduction to “The Best Things Ever Said About God” (20000, Harper Collins), more or less agnostic attorney-turned-writer Ronald B. Schwartz calls his book:

 “…a miscellany for doubters and believers alike—though at neither extreme—and purged of freeze-dried sermonettes and vainglorious citations to chapter-and-verse proof that God prefers tea to coffee...

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The Tragi-Comedy of “The Big Short”

Seeing the movie adaptation  of “The Big Short” last night transported me back to a decade ago, when I made a regular habit of leaving my road bike in the garage and hopping instead on my upright city bike to cruise my hometown. Cycling is much like walking in giving you slices of life and peeks into windows and garages to take a measure of Americana. The slices just go by faster.

I can distinctly remember the internal commentary going on in my mind at the time as I moseyed in leisurely fashion through typical middle class neighborhoods of well-appointed tract homes, of the three-and-four-bedroom variety, with double garages on relatively small lots. They were workers’ homes, “owned”—at least until the banks stated reclaiming them—by plumbers and teachers and shop owners and radiology techs...

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