“But What Do You Do?”– Take Off the Hoods!

I just finished a biography of J.Frank Norris called ‘The Shooting Salvationist’ by David R. Stokes. Norris was America’s first megachurch media star in the 1920’s, but his reputation dimmed somewhat when he succumbed to compassion fatigue. Instead of counseling a troubled soul who came to his office he shot the man dead.

Texas in the 1920’s was Klan Kountry. Like many other politically connected men of ambition; Norris enjoyed a friendly relationship with the fraternal terrorist organization. They shared common enemies– Catholics and saloon owners, and the Klan never bothered anyone who mattered.

So, speaking of people who matter, why in the 21st Century am I ragging on Pat Robertson? He’s so old he’s almost cute, in an evil gnome kind of way.

Well, like the elderly Rupert Murdoch, he sits on top of a media empire. Pat Robertson’s 700 Club broadcasts it’s own version of the news across America and the world. If my informal survey of what’s on TV when I make nurse visits is any indicator, Christian Broadcasting Network has a large following, and they vote. That’s why politicians take Robertson seriously.

For the Left, he’s always good for an outrageous sound byte, like this explanation for the murderous attack on the Sikh Temple…

“What is it?” the TV preacher wondered. “Is it satanic? Is it some spiritual thing, people who are atheists, they hate God, they hate the expression of God? And they are angry with the world, angry with themselves, angry with society and they take it out on innocent people who are worshiping God.”

“And whether it’s a Sikh temple or a Baptist church or a Catholic church or a Muslim mosque, whatever it is, I just abhor this kind of violence, and it’s the the kind of thing that we should do something about,” he added. “But what do you do? Well, you talk about the love of God and hope it has some impact.”

Yes, we abhor this kind of thing…

Whether they burn crosses on your lawn or a pile of leaves it’s untidy and ruins the grass.

Whether they spray a swastika on a synagogue or a tagger’s initials it’s graffiti vandalism, how deplorable.

Whether it’s a terrorist symbol or a gauche fashion statement, a white hood is not something a minister should wear in church.

“But what do you do?” Robertson asks after blurring distinctions and making a false equivalence.

Any gathering, for worship, music or politics, could suffer a mass shooting, especially with guns so cheap and available. But this attack on the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin was carried out by a man who was active in hate groups and had his intentions tatooed all over his body. He was a crime waiting to happen.

It doesn’t let you off the hook if you wear you hood backwards and claim you don’t see.

Robertson is giving talking points to an audience of millions. Stuff happens. Atheists are terrible people so all crimes must be the fault of atheists. Or the devil. And what do you do anyway? Talk about the love of God. Don’t call out sin when some of your best friends might take offense. There’s nothing we can do about this poor old world. Let’s move on and unite against our real enemies, the feminists, gays, atheists.

Hey, a revolving enemies list is nothing new. J. Frank Norris got quite chummy with the Catholic Church in his later years when they found a common enemy in the Red Menace (that’s Communism, not the Republican Party.)

Are any of the megavangelists going to come out powerfully against hate, against prejudice, against the hostility to immigrants, to those who are different from the majority. Will Evangelicals confront the sad history of the Klan, enabled by too many Christian Churches? It wasn’t a question mark they burned, after all.

Fortunately, the secular law of the United States does recognize organized crime and will pursue this vicious murder of innocent people in their place of worship– will investigate the collaborators in the crime. Church members, and everyone who wants to exercise the right to peaceably assemble should be grateful that there is something we can do.

Rumble over Rosary at Brook Village

High Rise in the Dead of Winter

Humanists of RI posted a Facebook link to ABC 6 News– there’s a rumble over the Rosary at Brook Village—

It was a religious battle at a retirement home in North Providence. Seniors at Brook Village say they were banned from praying the rosary in common areas, but the company that owns the property is now saying the whole thing was blown out of proportion.

Every Monday morning, for the last 14 years, Nancy Davey has watched the same Catholic television show. She and a few others pray as they watch it in the community room at Brook Village.

“You know, we are not hurting anyone,” Davey said. “We sit there in front of a television. We have our rosary. We don’t say a word.”

Brook Village happens to be my old visiting nurse territory. It’s not exactly a ‘retirement home’. It’s a high-rise tower where tenants share laundry and community space, but mostly stay in their apartments. Not all of them are old, but it’s subsidized for elderly and disabled.

These places are physically very nice, but often isolating. When people do get social, disputes break out and grudges are held, often as not. Tenants retreat into their own space to avoid the other tenants they aren’t talking to. Honestly, this nurse thinks that human kindness is so precious in these places that she would almost recruit for the smoker’s group that hangs outside by the ash tray.

I have no doubt that, as Brook Village management says, the whole thing was blown out of proportion, and the management staff are popping Tums and wishing everyone would chill.

Some of my best friends are atheists, like Steve Ahlquist from Humanists of Rhode Island. He goes to my church. (If that sounds strange, let me tell you about First Unitarian some time.)

I have worked in places where, with no doubt good intentions, religious people created an environment that shut out those of us who didn’t believe. If your spirituality is not the majority, and you depend on your paycheck, you take a real risk in coming out as pagan.

I once worked in a nursing home, where a nice group of kids came to sing Christmas Carols, and ended with an altar call to bring all these unsaved elderly to Christ. I know they meant well, but some of those folks were Jewish, most were lifelong Catholics who shouldn’t be conned into renouncing Papism in their last days. My Christian family had no idea why I found this offensive.

Rather than trying to ban religious expression– which is impossible, I would like to see a policy of tolerance and respect for all our diverse beliefs, and non-beliefs. It might be hard to write into policy, but there’s a difference between using a common space and dominating it. You feel when you are in the presence of bullies though it’s hard to define exactly how you know. Maybe it’s a matter of time and space.

I’ve been around people who play religious TV stations, it’s as soothing as nails on a chalkboard to me, so I can understand how someone would not want to hear it in the common space. But at a reasonable volume for a limited time I could put up with it.

I would encourage the management of Brook Village not to be frightened of controversy, and to encourage the tenants to use the community rooms for activities, and to be good referees so that the rooms are accessible to everyone and no one group pulls a coup and takes over the space entirely. That’s a tough job, but I know that the building management could teach the UN a few things about negotiation and peacemaking, and I know they’re up for it.
[the picture is Centerdale Manor, twin building to Brook Village, they share a parking lot off the Centredale Rotary]

Before Completion

I’m not a February type person. We’re in the deepest of the cold, on the edge of a snowstorm, in the dark of the moon. Two days before Ash Wednesday when all the Catholics wear a mark on the brow. Don’t ask me to give up blogging for Lent. I don’t attempt the impossible.

The news is appalling. Our President of Hope sends drone bombs to Afghanistan, which miss their target and kill civilians. Reform of any kind seems to have been politicked to death.

Before Completion

This hexagram indicates a time when the transition from disorder to order is not yet completed. The change is indeed prepared for, since all the lines in the upper trigram are in relation to those in the lower. However, they are not yet in their places. While the preceding hexagram offers an analogy to autumn, which forms the transition from summer to winter, this hexagram presents a parallel to spring, which leads out of winter’s stagnation into the fruitful time of summer. With this hopeful outlook the Book of Changes come to its close.

We have just completed the Year of the Ox, now begins the Year of the Tiger. We are gaining two minutes of sunlight every day, with a little jump ahead every third day, and a very gradual rise in the average night-time temperature. Theists like to rag on Atheists, saying they have no one to be grateful to. But one reward for rationality is reverence upon seeing the days get longer, and knowing they will increase according to their season regardless of human disorder.

My front yard has thrived on neglect for so long I declared it a butterfly garden and nature preserve. Dull green blades are pushing up out of the frozen dirt. They’ll probably get freeze-dried in the next few weeks, but by then more will be growing. It’s dark at 5:30, but there’s still a little blue in the sky. The ground is still frozen. New England Spring will visit us soon and tempt us to believe while wearing us down with penetrating cold and freezing rain. But seasons change, because they must. So here’s writing from President’s Day, just before Ash Wednesday, with 4-6 inches expected and a North wind blowing, before completion.