Sunday, December 16, 2007

The First Jewish Broadcast on Nazi Soil - 1944

This is very moving. Give it a listen.

Friday, December 07, 2007

The "Battle of Music," Dec. 6, 1941.

Here's a web page devoted to Navy Bands in the Pacific and the "Battle of Music" which would lead to one band being declared the winner on Dec. 13, 1941. That night, three bands competed to see who would take on the Band from the USS Arizona the following week...

Never forget.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

John Lennon's Born-Again Phase

In light of the upcomming anniversary of his murder, here's this article on Lennon and Jesus:

"Can He love me?" the former Beatle asked Oral Roberts. "I want out of hell."

In March 1977 Yoko traveled with John Green to Catagena in Colombia to meet a witch who had been recommended to her as someone "who could do anything." Green had to accompany her to check out the witch's validity. Yoko paid the witch sixty thousand dollars to perform a series of rituals culminating in the sacrifice of a dove. When they returned to New York; Yoko insisted that they had to fly via Los Angeles and Alaska to avoid having to fly in a northeasterly direction because she believed this would bring her bad fortune.

Next came one of the most extraordinary turnabouts in John's life. A television addict for many years (it was his way of looking at the world since he could no longer walk around anonymously), he enjoyed watching some of America's best-known evangelists—Pat Robertson, Billy Graham, Jim Bakker, and Oral Roberts. In 1972 he had written a desperate letter to Roberts confessing his dependence on drugs and his fear of facing up to "the problems of life." He expressed regret that he had said that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus and enclosed a gift for the Oral Roberts University. After quoting the line "money can't buy me love" from "Can't Buy Me Love" he said, "It's true. The point is this, I want happiness. I don't want to keep on with drugs. Paul told me once, 'You made fun of me for taking drugs, but you will regret it in the end.' Explain to me what Christianity can do for me. Is it phoney? Can He love me? I want out of hell."

Roberts sent him a copy of his book Miracle of Seed Faith and several letters explaining basic Christian beliefs. In the second of his letters Roberts said:

John, we saw you and the Beatles on television when you first came to America. Your talent with music was almost awesome and your popularity touched millions. Your influence became so widespread and powerful that your statement-the Beatles are more popular than Jesus- might have had some truth in it at that moment. But you know, our Lord said, I am alive for ever more. People, the Bible says, are like sheep and are often fickle, following this one day and something else the next. However, there are millions who have received Jesus Christ as their personal Savior and have been filled with the Holy Spirit. They love him. To them He is the most wonderful and popular man who ever lived because he is the Son of God and His name endures.
I thank God that you see this, John, and finally regret thinking any man or group could be more popular than Jesus. Jesus is the only reality. It is Jesus who said "I am the way, the truth, and the life." So, you see, your statement that because of your hard background you've never wanted to face reality is actually really saying you've never wanted to face our loving Lord. What I want to say, as I tried to say in my other letter, is that Jesus, the true reality, is not hard to face. He said, "Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. … For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." You said, John, that you take drugs because reality frightens you. Remember as you open your life to Jesus, He will take all the fear away and give you peace. Peace that passes all understanding.

This correspondence and his exposure to TV evangelism didn't appear to have any effect until he suddenly announced to close friends in the spring of 1977 that he'd become a born-again Christian. He had been particularly moved by the U.S. television premiere of Franco Zeffirelli's Jesus of Nazareth, starring Robert Powell as Jesus, which NBC showed in two three-hour segments on Palm Sunday, April 3, 1977. A week later, on Easter day, he took Yoko and Sean to a local church service.

Over the following months he baffled those close to him by constantly praising "the Lord," writing Christian songs with titles like "Talking with Jesus" and "Amen" (the Lord's Prayer set to music), and trying to convert nonbelievers. He also called the prayer line of The 700 Club, Pat Robertson's program. The change in his life perturbed Yoko, who tried to talk him out of it. She reminded him of what he'd said about his vulnerability to strong religious leaders because of his emotionally deprived background. She knew that if the press found out about it they would have a field day with another John and Jesus story. John became antagonistic toward her, blaming her for practicing the dark arts and telling her that she couldn't see the truth because her eyes had been blinded by Satan.

Those close to the couple sensed that the real reason she was concerned was that it threatened her control over John's life. If he became a follower of Jesus he would no longer depend on her and the occultists. During long, passionate arguments she attacked the key points of his fledgling faith. They met with a couple of Norwegian missionaries whom Yoko questioned fiercely about the divinity of Christ, knowing that this was the teaching that John had always found the most difficult to accept. Their answers didn't satisfy her, and John began to waver in his commitment.

In an unpublished song, "You Saved My Soul," he spoke about "nearly falling" for a TV preacher while feeling "lonely and scared" in a Tokyo hotel. This must have referred to a trip to Japan at the end of May when he stayed at the Okura Hotel for over two months while Yoko visited relatives. Feeling isolated because of the language barrier, he locked himself away in his room for long stretches of time. At night he suffered terrifying nightmares. According to John Green, who makes no mention of the born-again period in his book, John told him, "I'd lie in bed all day [in Tokyo], not talk, not eat, and just withdraw. And a funny thing happened. I began to see all these different parts of me. I felt like a hollow temple filled with many spirits, each one passing through me, each inhabiting me for a little time and then leaving to be replaced by another."

The image was remarkably like one suggested by Jesus and recorded in Luke 11. It's hard to imagine that John was unfamiliar with the passage. Jesus was warning of the danger of merely ridding oneself of evil spirits without taking in the good. He says that an unclean or evil spirit, finding nowhere to rest, will return. "And when he cometh, he findeth it swept and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh to him seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in, and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first."

Whatever happened in Tokyo, it marked the end of his personal interest in Jesus. "You Saved My Soul" said that he "nearly" fell for the TV preacher, but that Yoko "saved me from that suicide." So the salvation of the title refers to being saved from God, not by God. Yoko had again become the captain of his soul, the mistress of his destiny. Yet his life didn't improve. He sank into a depression, concerned that his creativity had deserted him and that he had no real purpose in life. The only real joy he experienced came from spending time with his son, Sean.

His life was out of his control. He worried about his health and his eyesight, about making the right investments with his money, about his personal safety. The only way out, as far as he could see, was to pay for the services of people who claimed to see into the future. But then, which ones could he trust? If the advice of the tarot card reader contradicted that of the astrologer, which should he follow? Instead of the freedom he wanted when he broke away from the Beatles, he was now completely enslaved. He couldn't travel anywhere without advice from a directionalist, do deals with anyone without knowing their star sign, or make plans for the future without consulting the I Ching.

In January 1979 he and Yoko traveled to Cairo, having heard that there was a major illicit archeological dig taking place. Both of them believed that ancient Egyptian artifacts contained magical powers, and Yoko had dedicated one of the rooms in their apartment to Egyptian artifacts. "I love Egyptian art," she said. "I make sure I get all the Egyptian things, not for their value but for their magic power. Each piece has a certain magic power." They stayed at the Nile Hilton and toured the pyramids, but when word got out about their intentions they were prevented from visiting the dig.

By the time Frederic Seaman became John's personal assistant in February 1979, John's main interest was reading books on religion, psychic phenomena, the occult, death, history, archeology, and anthropology. Specific books Seaman can remember him asking for included Rebel in the Soul: An Ancient Egyptian Dialogue Between a Man and His Destiny, by Bika Reed; Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess Worshippers, and Other Pagans in America Today, by Margot Adler; and Practical Occultism, by (Madame) H. P Blavatsky. He also listened to a thousand dollars' worth of taped lectures by Alan Watts.

Vacationing in Florida in the spring, he again watched Jesus of Nazareth on its by now regular Easter showing, but his reaction was completely different from the one he had had two years before. He kept joking that they should just get on with it and fast-forward to the crucifixion. Seaman, who was present with John's sons, Sean and Julian, recalled, "John began working himself up into a tirade against Christianity, saying that it had virtually destroyed what was left of pagan culture and spirituality in Europe-a great loss to civilization." He then announced that he was now a "born again pagan."

Later in the year Bob Dylan recorded Slow Train Coming, a gospel album born out of personal experience. Dylan told Robert Hilburn of the Los Angeles Times that he'd recently accepted that "Jesus was real … I had this feeling, this vision and feeling. I truly had a born-again experience, if you want to call it that. It's an over-used term. But it's something that people can relate to." Hilburn asked him what "born again" meant. "Born once," he answered, "is born from the spirit below, which is when you're born. It's the spirit you're born with. Born again is born with the Spirit from above, which is a little bit different."

Slow Train Coming was a direct and challenging album. Unlike most gospel recordings, it didn't simply praise Jesus but attacked opposition to him, whether that was religious syncretism, false saviors, or lack of commitment. It was addressed to people like John. In "Precious Angel," the first single, Dylan sang, "Ya either got faith or ya got unbelief and there ain't no neutral ground.' In the title track he sang of "Fools glorifying themselves, trying to manipulate Satan."

Dylan's transformation took John completely by surprise. After all, Dylan had been the Beatles' only peer and remained someone whom he deeply respected. What made it particularly galling was that everything Dylan sang about on the album was delivered with a confidence that had always seemed to elude John. Dylan seemed certain that his sins were forgiven, his eternal security was assured, and that God was actively involved in his life.

When asked in 1980 about his response to Dylan's conversion, John was less than honest. He said he was surprised that "old Bobby boy did go that way," but "if he needs it, let him do it." His only objection, he said, was that Dylan was presenting Christ as the only way. He disliked this because "There isn't one answer to anything." This is why he favored Buddhism. It didn't proselytize. In what can now be seen as an allusion to his own born-again period, which hadn't yet been made public, he said, "But I understand it. I understand him completely, how he got in there, because I've been frightened enough myself to want to latch onto something."

His private feelings about the conversion were expressed in his songwriting. He was particularly incensed by the track "Gotta Serve Somebody" because it opposed his view that there was no single truth. The song said, as bluntly as possible, that whatever your station in life, you were either serving God or the devil. This wasn't an avoidable choice. John wrote a riposte titled "Serve Yourself," arguing that no one can save you. The only person you have to serve is yourself. "He was kind of upset [about Dylan's song] and it was a dialogue," said Yoko in 1998. "He showed his anger but also … his sense of humour."

Excerpted from The Gospel According to the Beatles by Steve Turner, published by Westminster John Knox Press, 2006.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Sinister Organization.

More on that sinister organization, The Federalist Society, here.

As I noted before, I joined up quite a few years ago, but maybe because of my liberal taint, I never got the secret handshake nor have I received a judicial appointment.

Of course, I'm still waiting on the IRD checks that have been promised to every orthodox Anglican.
Firefox 3. (beta)

I usually have 15 to 18 separate windows open when I browse using Firefox, each having anywhere from 1 to 10 separate tabs open. It can be a huge resource hog; so I'm intensely concerned that a new version of Firefox might be worse.

According to this
, while the initial loading may consume more memory, leaving all the window and tabs open like I do will actually result in less memory being consumed than with Firefox 2.0.

Thumbs up.
Reading Level Requirements.

I actually strive to write at 5th grade reading level. So either reading levels have changed or I'm getting sloppy:

Junior High

(this is the same rating as Prof. Volokh -- but I can only dream to write like he does.)

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Harold Berman, Rest in Christ

I just read on the Volokh Conspiracy blog that law professor Harold Berman passed away. Here is the link to Todd Zywicki's thoughts ("Berman's magnum opus Law and Revolution was one of a handful of books that truly transformed my thinking about law. It is one of those books that once you read it, it is almost impossible to ever again think about law and especially legal history the same.") See also, the wonderful obit in the NYTimes and read it to the end.

I was fortunate to take a one week summer course from him a few years back -- it must have been August 2004, because I remember he was supporting John Kerry. The course was offered at Regent University Law School in Virginia Beach, about an hour from my parent's house. It was an opportunity I couldn't pass up. (In fact, now that I think about it, the last day of class was on August 6, my son's birthday -- I asked him to sing my personal copy of Law and Revolution for Joseph and I will give it to him one day.) Aside from the professor and the course, which was magnificent, the class was very diverse -- ranging from Herb Titus, who at that time was counsel for Roy Moore to the very liberal gay chancellor of a West Coast Episcopal Diocese.

Prof. Berman began the class by actually giving his background and included his testimony, which was fascinating. He was raised in a non-practicing Jewish family and went to the London School of Economics. On a train ride to or from school, he told us he had an encounter with the risen Christ. He said that Jesus appeared to him, physically, as He had to Saint Paul (although Prof. Berman wryly indicated he was allowed to keep his sight) and it changes his life, setting him on the path he would follow. He further indicated this was not a story he ever told but felt comfortable telling it to our seminar.

He was truly a great man and I am thankful I was able to meet him.


Here are some of his writings available on-line:
Here is a review of the second volume of Law and Revolution from The Claremont Institute.

And an old note by former student, Randy Barnett.
Killing Opportunity: Hugo Chavez

ESPN has an article on-line which you might normally find in The New Republic or The National Review. Here's an excerpt:
With that kind of talent emerging from Venezuela in recent seasons, one would assume that big league clubs would be flocking to the South American nation in search of the next superstar. However, the cultural and political scene in Venezuela is undergoing rapid and radical transformation, and instead of flocking to the country, teams are fleeing over concerns about safety and political uncertainty. They aren't leaving in droves just yet, but the stream has been steady enough to raise a red flag about the future. And that's what has [Angels pitcher Kelvim] Escobar and others worried.

The number of clubs pulling their player development operations out of Venezuela has been a concern for Major League Baseball. Nineteen teams have participated in the Venezuelan Summer League in the past, but only 11 did so this year.

The Padres, for example, had planned on leaving Venezuela following this season after they built a multimillion-dollar facility in the Dominican, but the current situation accelerated the move. The team moved all its player development operations out of Venezuela following the 2005 campaign, two years earlier than originally anticipated.

"We just figured we might as well do it [then] to avoid some of the hassle of having to deal with some of the legislation that [President Hugo] Chávez passes down there in hiring coaches, worrying about severance pay and just getting in and out of the country," says Juan Lara, San Diego's Latin American operations coordinator.

San Diego is not alone. Baltimore ceased operating its academy following the 2006 season. The Red Sox -- one of the teams the Padres shared an academy with -- left when San Diego did in 2005. Cleveland pulled out in 2004.

There has been speculation, more internal than public so far, that Chávez, a socialist and self-proclaimed revolutionary who took office in 1999, will turn Venezuela into the next Cuba. In other words, some worry that baseball in Venezuela will serve to illustrate (once again) how politics spills over into sport. Cuba is an international power in baseball and, as in Venezuela, the game has long been a part of the nation's cultural landscape. But since Fidel Castro took power, the Cuban government hasn't allowed its players to sign professional contracts.

Read it all.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Day One of the Trial.

Here is a report from The Living Church and here is a sketch from BabyBlue.

My thoughts? This is what is going through my mind:
Neither party expected for . . . the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with or even before the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. "Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh." . . . He gives to both . . . this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge . . . may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue . . . as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Retro-Halloween. We had an old-fashioned Halloween last night -- dating back to even before my time in the '60's with the plastic costumes. Almost all the kids I saw last night were dressed in home-made costumes. And, by-and-large, having talked to the parents as we waited at the foot of the driveway, the kids came up with the ideas and made the costumes themselves.
It was so cool.

I couldn't help but wonder if this is a rebellion to the slutty costume stories we see lately (h/t Kendall). Or maybe I live in a throw-back neighborhood. I mean there was even one house that gave out fresh apples! Of course, we all know these neighbors and there's no worries about poison or razorblades.

But then, maybe not. I mean quite a few of our neighbors are immigrants from India, Pakistan, Latin American and Africa.

It's the New Retroism!


James Lileks has a glimpse of the real 1950's Halloween and also riffs on the slutty costumes.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Hall of Fame, Cut 1

The Pro Football Hall of Fame released the first cut of nominees for the Class of 2008. As in the past, I've indicated an obvious oversight, I'm going to dwell on that. Below are the nominees at Wide Receiver -- I have grouped them into three classes - Must Go In This Year; Should Go In Sometime; and Others. As you can imagine, it starts off small and broadens:

Must Go In This Year
Art Monk (number 6 on all time receptions list [held record when retired]; number 11 on all time yardage list

Should Go In Sometime
Cliff Branch
Harold Carmichael
Both Branch and Carmichael changed the game and are responsible, in part for the other guys having such awesome numbers
Cris Carter (number 2 on receptions list; number 5 on yardage list; no. 2 on receiving TDs)
Andre Reed (number 5 on receptions list; number 8 on yardage list; no. 10 on receiving TDs)
Henry Ellard (probably)

Dwight Clark
Gary Clark (my own sentimental favorite)
Isaac Curtis
Roy Green
Herman Moore
Drew Pearson

Once again, this is a year where no QBs should be chosen. If one is, it should come from one of these three: Ken Anderson, Ken Stabler, Doug Williams. Here are the others: Randall Cunningham, Boomer Esiason, Jim Plunkett (being a Raider fan, I love the guy, but he never had a HOF career), Phil Simms, Joe Theismann, and Danny White (another fine QB who should never make the Hall).

First time nominee Darrell Green, CB, should make it on this go around, but there may reluctance to include two Redskins (i.e. Monk, who deserved admission years ago) -- not to mention all the Hogs who are rightfully being considered.

More to come, I'm sure...

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Does Same-Sex "Marriage" Threatens Religious Liberty?

Here is an interesting Law Review article which argues that it does. (In .pdf format)

Among the potential liabilities noted for Religious Institutions:
  • Risk of Suits Under Employment Anti-Discrimination Laws;
  • Risk of Suits Under Fair Housing Laws;
  • Risk of Suits under Public Accommodation Laws;
  • Potential Hate Crimes or Hate Speech Liability;
  • Lost of Tax-Exempt Status;
  • Exclusion from Social Service Contracts;
  • Exclusion from Government Facilities and Fora;
  • Exclusion from Licensing Marriage.
Worth reading.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Re4mation TheoLOLgians presented by the world’s greatest systematic theologian cartoonist, Fred Sanders.

The whole series may be found here.

(Dr. Sanders was the author of the wildly successful Dr. Doctrine's Christian Comix, which, alas, are out of print.)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Why L'Affaire Beauchamp Matters.

1. Integrity.

Doesn't this matter to anyone any more? Or are we just the Nixon-Clinton generation and we think that "integrity" is just a nice catch phrase, devoid of meaning and reality?

2. Trust.

Obviously, with out integrity, there is no reason for a reader to trust a magazine, such as the New Republic. When the Stephen Glass scandal broke, then TNR editor Charles Lane realized how important trust and integrity were and ordered an intensive review of the stories and beefed up the magazine. He publicly admitted they were wrong and sloppy and exposed the lies publicly. With L'Affaire Beauchamp, Editor Franklin Foer and Peter Scoblic, Executive Editor, have stonewalled and actively sought to keep Beauchamp from talking with the Washington Post and other media outlets.

3. Patriotism.

This is actually the most subtle of all and probably should be a larger stand alone post, but L'Affaire Beauchamp points out the problem both the media and the modern left have with Patriotism.

It used to be that standing up for America, for serving in the military, was not a red-blue divide issue. Look back to WWII, where JFK served on PT-109 and his older brother, Joe, Jr., who although eligible to return to the states, volunteered for an Operation Aphrodite mission in which he perished on August 12, 1944. Look at William Manchester who describes himself in his survey of the Marines in the Pacific Theater as "a knee jerk FDR liberal." Goodbye Darkness at 379. Look at Judge Harry Pregerson of California's 9th Circuit, described by Hugh Hewitt as "a model of judicial activism for nearly a quarter-century;" he served with the Marine Corps and fought and was wounded in the Battle for Okinawa, in which over 200,000 perished. I could go on -- this was not unusual.

Then came Vietnam and the left saw itself as morally superior and that anyone who served in the military was a war criminal. The only way to exculpate oneself was to denounce the military in a sweeping fashion. ROTC was expelled from campuses and even family members seem to be personae non gratae. In his new book, Hog Pilots, Blue Water Grunts, Robert Kaplan writes: “At the 2006 Stanford commencement ceremony, a Marine general whose son was the lone graduating student from a military family said he was struck by how many of the other parents had never even met a member of the military before he introduced himself.”

Similarly, many in the media seem to exhibit a willingness to believe all things bad about the military, to the point where they let normal caution and fact checking slip. Contrast the recent whining by Bobby Caina Calvan ("With nothing to lose I decided to get pushy. ... I made it known that I was jotting down his name. . . I was going to bully my way back into the Green Zone. The man with the gun glowered as I continued my barrage of protests.") with Ernie Pyle ("I was away from the front lines for a while this spring, living with other troops, and considerable fighting took place while I was gone. When I got ready to return to my old friends at the front I wondered if I would sense any change in them.")

Now patriotism does not mean unquestioning acceptance. G. K. Chesterton (naturally) disposed of that myth:
"My country, right or wrong," is a thing that no patriot would think of saying except in a desperate case. It is like saying 'My mother, drunk or sober.' No doubt if a decent man's mother took to drink he would share her troubles to the last; but to talk as if he would be in a state of gay indifference as to whether his mother took to drink or not is certainly not the language of men who know the great mystery.
G.K. Chesterton, The Defendant (1902).

Both the left and the media need to remember that it's okay to like and appreciate the military and it's okay to love your country.

The ownership of The New Republic needs to find editors who are committed to integrity, trust, and their country.

And we must all pursue the same.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Who to root for?

My son is a Sox fan, but I like the Black and Silver (and purple) motif of the Rox...

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

American Hero.
Lt. Michael Murphy
A couple of months ago, I read the book Sole Survivor by Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Marcus Luttrell about the battle he and fellow Navy SEALS Gunner's Mate 2nd Class Danny Dietz, Sonar Technician 2nd Class, Matthew Axelson and Lt. Michael Murphy
fought in Afghanistan. WaPo Article Glenn Beck Interview pt. 2.

It's an amazing story of a very valiant fight. I have to pause here -- in school they tell you not to overuse adjective and adverbs -- this is one of those rare instances where there aren't enough. You simply need to read the book to find out what these heroes did in the face of incredible odds.

However, the book concluded noting that Luttrell, Dietz, and Axe were all awarded the Navy Cross. But there was no mention of "Murph.' Curious, I googled and came up with silence. It was then I realized he was up for the Medal of Honor.

Yesterday, President Bush recognized that Lt. Murphy (picture at right) paid the ultimate sacrifice for his men and his country, presenting the Medal of Honor to his parents, Dan and Maureen Murphy.

Here are the President's formal remarks.

Washington Times News Story

Please see also, the AP news story here.

"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."


Stars and Stripes has several audio clips.

Newsday has some video reports.

CBS has several reports, including the comments from his fiancee, Heather Duggan.

Notes: Retitled from "Sole Survivor" which references Marcus Lutrell's book of the same name.

Monday, October 15, 2007

J. K. Rowling and the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Here is a fascinating list which compares the winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature with who should have won in an alternate universe.

Some I strongly disagree with. For example, I think Sigrid Undset deserved the prize in 1928 and that she is too overlooked. Still some of the other alternatives are proper - in hindsight. (No prizes for Leo Tolstoy, Mark Twain, and Henry James?)

Still others, if not proper for that year are clearly contenders (W. H. Auden, George Orwell).

Some are wacky (1974 - John Lennon, Paul McCartney).

Others are a fun matchup - who won in 1930? F. Scott Fitzgerald or Sinclair Lewis?

My own favorite suggestions: Chesterton, Bob Dylan, Dr. Seuss, Ray Bradbury, Robert Heinlein, Phillip K. Dick, J.R.R. Tolkein, Arthur Conan Doyle and Raymond Chandler (but no room for Edgar Rice Burroughs).

Read and enjoy.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Rest in Peace.

One of the best cartoonists to come along, Chris Muir, last week ran a notice that work was suspended due to a family emergency. Sadly, if you opened his website today, there was this panel:

Back in 2005, Chris alerted us to his sister Cathy's cancer and asked for assistance with a "Clicks for Cathy" campaign.

I do not know Chris, but having read his cartoon, I can see that he is a man of integrity and honor and was deeply impressed with his love for his sister. He uses his humor to gently poke fun and make a point -- I have a feeling that even if you disagree with Chris, even if you are his target, you will never come away bitter.

I believe that we can see a reflection of a family in the character of one -- therefore, I feel Chris' grief and, at the same time, know that Cathy was a remarkable woman. I have no doubt that this is a special family. Which, of course makes the grief even deeper.

Accordingly, if you hit your knees tonight, please offer up a prayer of thanks for the life of Catherine Forsythe and prayers of comfort and care for the entire family.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Paul Westhead Bowl.

The Warriors of the University of Hawai'i defeated San Jose in OT last night 42-35. Colt Brennan attempted 75 passes, completing 44 for 545 yards. He's out of Heisman competition I fear, because of his 4 interceptions.

Sadly, I don't think the Warriors are going to make the BCS. But I'd love to see them in a bowl against Texas Tech.

Friday, October 12, 2007

The Kingdom. Thumbs up. I'd rate it an A-.

The only problem I had...


...was the last minute of the movie.

It's not that it tries to be politically correct, it's that this attempt fails.

Okay, I really mean it -- spoiler alert -- I'm going to tell you the end of the movie.
At the end, the four FBI guys are in their cubes and one of the members asks the team leader (Jamie Foxx) what he said (at the beginning of the movie) to get Jennifer Garner to stop crying:
Adam Leavitt: What did you say to Mayes to get her to stop crying?
Ronald Fleury: I said we were going to kill them all.
And then Director Peter Berg does his pious ham-handed cut to Riyadh where a woman asks a child what his grandfather (the movie's Osama bin Laden figure) whispered to him before he died: "He said we would kill them all."Janet Mayes

Yeah, it's set up to allow Berg to show his face at the soirées, but the real problem is that the statement is so inconsistent with the Fleury (Jamie Foxx) character it stands out like Jennifer Garner in a town full of burqas. It's a stretch and it doesn't work.

At worst he would've said "We're going to go there and get some justice."

* * *

Also, the character playing Gideon Young, the Attorney General, is set up to be a religious fanatic like Orin Hatch, but he swears in private, well, Orin Hatch.

But Jeremy Piven, the State Department weenie, and Richard Jenkins as the head of the FBI both work well.

* * *

Sgt. HaythamActually, it's my understanding that the original ending was nixed as too depressing:
The first Saudi on the scene in the movie, Sgt. Haytham (pictured on the left) was beaten by the Saudi National Guard general in charge. In the movie, Al-Ghazi (very well played by Ashraf Barhom), the Saudi policeman comes to the aid of Sgt. Haytham, however, you can see that Sgt. Haytham is troubled after being tortured by his own government for his suspected involvement in the bombing. The nixed ending has Sgt. Haytham saying goodbye to the FBI team at the air base with a hidden bomb strapped to his chest. Chris Cooper (Sykes) wrestles Haytham away from the group, but Haytham detonates it before Sykes can get clear.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Add Ons. In installing a home network, I've had to reconfigure all the different PCs I use which has caused me to figure out what add-ons I like and what I don't.

First, I use the Mozilla Firefox web browser. IE7 isn't bad, I just prefer Firefox and the add-ons for it. Next, I add the Google toolbar and the following buttons: Bible Gateway; Download; Webster's Dictionary (what I would love would be a button for the Catholic encyclopedia).

Then come these add-ons:
  • Foxmarks Bookmark Synchronizer. Using browsers on at least 4 different machines, I can log in and get my bookmarks wherever I am. Plus, when I update one, they are all updated.
  • IE Tab ever get those webpages that will only work with IE? Trick 'em. This embeds Internet Explorer in tabs of Mozilla/Firefox.
  • TinyUrl Creator - allows you to right click and make a tiny url. Simple.
  • Do you want to print a page, but it's got this color intense graphic smack in the middle which is going to gobble up ink? Use Nuke Anything Enhanced to eliminate it.
  • Cooliris Previews gives you a preview of a page before you surf to it.
  • Finally, PDF Download lets you choose how you want to view a .pdf document you are going to download - in the browser, in Adobe, as HTML, or save as a file.
I've heard good things about Greasemonkey, but it's over my head.
There is one I have been avoiding - StumbleUpon - because I love to go on tangents and can really waste time. You have to figure it out yourself, if I've tempted you.
I forgot a few more -- I told you I'm getting several machines networked.

  • Forecastfox - I forgot about this, because it's just there. It places the Accuweather forcast for your zipcode on the bottom of the browser. If you use Yahoo widgets, you might have something similar on your desktop, but I like this on my browser. It's out of the way, but handy when I need it. Also, I switch the "Alert Slider" to be inactive (except for severe weather) -- if not, it does take up some resources (when the slider pops up) and slows things down. Also, it doesn't have the spyware that other similar widgets and programs (Weatherbug) have.
  • Alternatives to IE Tab, mentioned above, include IEView and IE View Lite. I haven't tried either of these.
  • DownloadHelper is one I'm still playing with - it lets you download web content like videos and images - and yes, it works with flash video like YouTube. However, this past week, I tried using it to download the Dahlia Lithwick & Jan Crawford Greenburg exchange on and it didn't work.
  • Similarly, I'm still trying to decide whether I like Clipmarks or not. It allows you to clip and save portions of webpages. Where it's been nice is I've saved whole articles (although there is a size limit) in a private space, which I don't feel like I can legally post (in their entirety) here. That way, it's archived, accessible and available when the original online article disappears.
  • Oh, and what the heck, here is the link for StumbleUpon.
Also, the good thing about being networked is that I should be able to get back to doing some of this blogging stuff on a more regular basis.
Maybe I should've copyrighted the idea?

Or the acronym? From a long post I wrote back on January 11, 2004:

Next was Martyn Minns, rector of Truro Church, speaking on "The Network" Since his talk is on-line, here, [link no longer works] I'd direct you to read it in it's entirety. It is important. My only comment would be on the name: Network of Confessing Dioceses and Parishes. I prefer the Confessing Anglican Network of America ("CANA") -- as in the place where our Lord took stagnant water and turned it into wine.

Saturday, September 29, 2007


We are all rightly distressed, and ashamed also, at the divisions of Christendom. But those who have always lived within the Christian fold may be too easily dispirited by them. They are bad, but such people do not know what it looks like from without. Seen from there, what is left intact despite all the divisions, still appears (as it truly is) an immensely formidable unity. I know, for I saw it; and well our enemies know it. That unity any of us can find by going out of his own age. It is not enough, but it is more than you had thought till then. Once you are well soaked in it, if you then venture to speak, you will have an amusing experience. You will be thought a Papist when you are actually reproducing Bunyan, a Pantheist when you are quoting Aquinas, and so forth. For you have now got on to the great level viaduct which crosses the ages and which looks so high from the valleys, so low from the mountains, so narrow compared with the swamps, and so broad compared with the sheep-tracks.

- C. S. Lewis
Introduction to De Incarnatione Verbi Dei (On the Incarnation) by St. Athanasius

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Sign o' the times

I clipped the following from my local grocery store sales circular:

I wonder whose idea it was to put the Happy Ramadan under the Bud ad? [ed: maybe because it's a light beer, it works during a period of fasting? uhh, No.]

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Father Damien. From a thank you note dictated to my wife from daughter Emilie, age 6:

Thank you for letting us watch “Father Damien.” The first time you ever saw the first bit of the movie, they were taking people to this island to see if they were sick and if they were sick they wouldn’t be released, but if they weren’t sick they would be released. So, Father Damien went to this island where there were lots of lepers and some people told him not to touch them, but he did. People asked him to put his hands on their children and pray for them and he did. And there was a wedding in the movie. And the queen came and she asked what the people wanted and they said they needed medicine. Father Damien got so sick and he died. He prayed with them and there were so many lepers he couldn’t even heal them in one whole day–he was there for trillions of days. He also taught them to sing like a choir because they rebuilt this church and this guy climbed up on something to see what was happening in the church (it was a long movie). When he first went in the church, the things where they sat were knocked over and some windows were broken–even stained glass windows!....................
(Background- while we were at my parents last week, we all watched the movie "Molokai: The Story of Father Damien.")
Some Articles. Since I'm not much good at blogging...

Judge Mukasey on Padilla and terrorists in court. (WSJ - Free).

The new Mall towering over Mecca (FT-blog).

Frida Kahlo's last secret. (the Guardian)

Anyone remember Fr. Richard P. McBrien, a theologian at the University of Notre Dame? Prior to Ratzinger's elevation to Pope McBrien argued it would never happen: “He’s too much of a polarizing figure,” McBrien told The Washington Post. “If he were elected, thousands upon thousands of Catholics in Europe and the United States would roll their eyes and retreat to the margins of the church.” And he's right! That is, if the margins of the church means "More money, More pilgrims and lot's more Latin." (Times Online)

Hitch and the ABC (scroll down to June 10) (Vanity Fair)

Finally, Ingmar Bergman could've defeated Death at chess, if only he'd sent Death for a pizza.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Back with Harry. Yes, it has been awhile. I'm back with a post about Harry. Not my own thoughts, but those of Gregg Easterbrook writing at ESPN. [SPOILER ALERT] Hence, I post his note in full (links added):

God and Man at Hogwarts: The postwar United Kingdom has produced three blockbuster young people's fantasy series, the Narnia books by C.S. Lewis, the "Golden Compass" series by Philip Pullman and now the Potter volumes. All feature astonishingly capable English schoolchildren with magic powers. The Narnia books are explicitly Christian; the Golden Compass books are explicitly anti-Christian; what about Potter? Though J.K. Rowling's 4,000 pages concern supernatural forces, the soul and communication with the dead who exist in an afterlife, religious issues are missing from the series. The wizards and witches of the Potter world celebrate Christmas, but otherwise seem to have no religious views and never pause to reflect on where their power comes from or what the spirit world might be. Perhaps Rowling concluded that in the contemporary milieu, it's totally fine to market a children's story containing numerous scenes in which children are tortured or murdered, but mentioning God would be too controversial.

The final book was the first to contain religious references, and they've been missed by commentators. Harry travels to the enchanted village where the good wizards and witches of England live and observes there is a church at the center of the town square -- the evil sorcerers have nothing like this. On his parents' tombstone in the church graveyard, Harry sees the inscription, The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. This is the essence of resurrection theology, and though readers aren't told, is a quotation from Paul's first epistle to the church at Corinth. In the older Bible books, there is no talk of heaven or paradise; even the righteous dead go to a place of oblivion. When Christ declared, "I was dead, and see, I am alive forever and ever," he was announcing the defeat of death and offering a fundamentally new compact between Maker and made. Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, "If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain ... But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead ... The last enemy to be destroyed is death." The declaration comes in the same letter where Paul set down some of the greatest words in all literature: the magnificent passage that begins, at First Corinthians 13, "If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal."

When Harry finds the Dumbledore family grave, he reads this inscription: Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Though readers aren't told this either, the phrase is a quotation from Jesus. The teaching, at Matthew 6:19, is worth contemplating in its fullness, as it is difficult to imagine 40 words that exceed these in wisdom:

    Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Regarding the "Golden Compass" volumes, in them God is a central character -- but is actively evil, obsessed with causing people to suffer. The plotline of the books is that Christianity is a complete fraud and the source of all that is wrong with society; the final "Golden Compass" volume concerns a desperate attempt by the heroic children to kill God and obliterate every trace of Christianity from several universes. I found Pullman's arguments against Christianity puerile -- like recent anti-Christian books by Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, the "Golden Compass" volumes resort to the cheap subterfuge of cataloging everything bad about religion while pretending belief has no positive qualities. Pullman, Dawkins and Harris are anti-faith jihadis: they don't just want to argue against the many faults of Christianity, they want faith forbidden. But however flawed the "Golden Compass" books might be, to advance anti-Christian views is Pullman's prerogative, and his art should be transferred authentically to the screen. Now that the Golden Compass volumes are becoming big-budget flicks, will Hollywood accurately depict their loathing of Christianity or turn the books into a mere adventure story?

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Jerry Falwell. They laid the body of Jerry Falwell to rest yesterday. Here's where I give the obligatory "I was never a fan" disclaimer -- and I wasn't. He was a Southern Baptist televangelist and I was raised in the Roman Catholic Church. Nevertheless, I could never understand why he was so frequently labeled a "hater" nor why those who despised him so greatly actually turned into such rabid haters themselves.

He had a son, also named Jerry Falwell, who was in law school during the mid-80s at UVa -- I had friend who had several classes with this young man who was, like me, a left leaning moderate. He told me that it was obscene how much abuse this guy got. Classmates who were also committed leftists were appalled by the treatment of the guy.

"Sins of the father..."

I was in San Francisco last week when the news came out about Rev. Falwell's passing. Again, the abuse was apalling -- a mock gravesite was erected complete with astroturf for dancing on and a sign reading "Rest In Torment."

This is bigotry, pure and simple.

And, yes, people were coming by to dance on the "grave."

It's not just the Fred Phelps gang that does these things. Or the Moral Majority. Or the Islamists.

Sadly enough, it's also the people of San Francisco...

Monday, April 30, 2007


1964: Justice Potter Stewart, in his concurring opinion in Jacobellis v. Ohio, 378 U.S. 184 (1964), writes that he knows hard core pornography when he sees it.*

1978: Justice John Paul Stevens, in an appendix to FCC v. Pacifica Foundation, 438 U.S. 726, 751 (1978), sets forth the twelve-minute comedy routine by George Carlin, "the Seven Words You Can't Say on Television."

2007: The Supreme Court attaches a link to a video of a car chase to its opinion in Scott v. Harris at footnote 1. (Video here).

My question: How long before the Court starts posting porn on its website?

* This is what he actually wrote, in relevant part: "I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that." (at 476).

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Great Series. This past weekend series between the A's and the Yankees was a great series from beginning to end.

Friday night before a rare sell-out crowd, the A's tie up the game 4-4 on Nick Swisher's HR in the 7th. Then ROTY candidate Travis Buck takes a triple from the weak arm of Johnny Damon and score's on Bobby Kielty's grounder. A's 5-4.

Yesterday, the A's jump out to a quick 3-0 lead, before the Yankees tie it up in the 7th and former Athletic Jason Giambi, at that point in the game 0-5, hits a homer to win it in the 13th for the Yanks. Yankees 4-3.

On to today's game -- the A's take an early 2-0 lead off of Andy Pettitte in the first. Yet both Pettitte and the A's Rich Harden pitch well for the rest of the game. Harden pitched into the 7th before leaving with tightness in his pitching shoulder (and after giving up a leadoff double to ARod). Joe Kennedy came in in relief and promptly gave up a single to Giambi and a double to Posada. Then, back-to-back SF's by Robinson Cano and Melky Cabrera put the Yank's up by one. They got another run in the 8th and were ahead going into the bottom of the 9th 4-2. So, naturally, NY brings in Mariano Rivera for the last three -- and get the first two outs easily. Then, Todd Walker singled for Oakland's first hit since the third inning; Jason Kendall then walked, putting runners on first and second. Next up was Marco Scutaro, who was 1-20 at this point in the season. Frankly, I was stunned that manager Bob Geren didn't go to a pinch-hitter. But Scutaro came through, hitting a walk-off homer just inside the left foul poll to take the series for the A's 5-4.
I'm back from Pago Pago -- but today is "tax day" -- so it will be a few more days before I get my notes up about the trip.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Samoa. Greetings from Pago Pago. More later.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

One, Two.


From the Episcopal News Service
Jefferts Schori's opening remarks follow:

Good morning to all of you. And it is a good morning. As the psalmist says, "this is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it." Let us rejoice and be glad in the good and creative ministry going on in so many parts of this church and around the world. That is indeed an enormous blessing in a broken and hurting world.

I am grateful for this opportunity to speak to and with you, and grateful to Trinity Church for making this format possible. . . .
-Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori


New Year's Address to the Nation
Prague, January 1, 1990

My dear fellow citizens,

For forty years you heard from my predecessors on this day different variations on the same theme: how our country was flourishing, how many million tons of steel we produced, how happy we all were, how we trusted our government, and what bright perspectives were unfolding in front of us.

I assume you did not propose me for this office so that I, too, would lie to you.

Our country is not flourishing. . . .
- Václav Havel

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Children of Men is a very well done, well recieved (90% on the tomato-meter) flick, yet . . . yet, it leaves me wanting. Much of it does not make sense -- if a nation isn't growing, it will need immigrants, not want to imprison them -- but then, SciFi dystopian stories frequently don't (see 2010).

Jeffrey Overstreet's review on Christianity Today was also very positive and noted the strongly Christian overtones ("Echoes of the gospel—both subtle and obvious—occur at every turn, reminding us that God gave us hope by providing a vulnerable, miraculous child to a dark, dying, violent world"). Yet, he also points out what's wrong with the movie:
Cuarón's movie draws us into a world that bears a striking resemblance to our own. Where Spielberg would have become preoccupied with imaginative gadgetry, as he did in Minority Report, Cuarón prefers to keep our focus on the story and its relevance. (Cuarón recently told me in an interview, "I wasn't interested in the future. I was interested in right now.")

Victor Morton has this review which point out the problems with the movie. Here's a sample:

There's no doubt that this adaptation of P.D. James' Christian dystopia is thrilling in pieces ... particularly, the single-take escape as the camera goes into, out of, through and around a fleeing car. But by the time we got to the bravura closing scene (already dubbed "Fireman, Save My Child" by some wag), I was in such intellectual rebellion that I had long ago emotionally checked out of the film.

What caused this intellectual rebellion is that Cuaron made the material incoherent by completely secularizing P.D. James's themes and characters, and decoupling them from what concerned her. He soft-pedals her judgment of the contemporary culture of death in order to make a politically-correct presentist smirkfest against Bush, Guantanamo, immigration, fascist jackboots, etcetera, etcetera, et-bloody-cetera. P.D. James as rewritten by LULAC. . . .
(for me the last bit about LULAC is way too far, but I still recommend the review). I confess that I have not read P.D. James, but after having read some of the commentary on the movie, I am looking forward to doing so.

Still, Morton is right -- Cuarón has a lot of talent and he wasted it by making a movie for the Michael Moore crowd, instead of a timeless classic.

I give this movie a C.

[hat tip on the Morton review to the Chatman]

Friday, January 19, 2007

"These Dissidents." At three places in his letter, Peter James Lee refers to the confessing churches as "dissidents:

...we will seek the return of the churches of the Diocese of Virginia that are occupied by dissidents.
* * *
...attorneys for the dissidents...
* * *
...we have moved to accommodate these dissidents at the expense of our faithful people.

I am reminded of Václav Havel's essay, The Power of the Powerless, from which I quote below [recall, this was written about dissidents in the Soviet bloc -- fortunately our situation is not comparable, nevertheless, some of these points are worth considering]:

-------------------begin exceprt--------------------------------

Who are these so-called dissidents?

* * *


The manager of a fruit-and-vegetable shop places in his window, among the onions and carrots, the slogan: "Workers of the world, unite!" Why does he do it? What is he trying to communicate to the world? Is he genuinely enthusiastic about the idea of unity among the workers of the world? Is his enthusiasm so great that he feels an irrepressible impulse to acquaint the public with his ideals? Has he really given more than a moment's thought to how such a unification might occur and what it would mean?

I think it can safely be assumed that the overwhelming majority of shopkeepers never think about the slogans they put in their windows, nor do they use them to express their real opinions.

* * *

Let us take note: if the greengrocer had been instructed to display the slogan "I am afraid and therefore unquestioningly obedient;' he would not be nearly as indifferent to its semantics, even though the statement would reflect the truth. The greengrocer would be embarrassed and ashamed to put such an unequivocal statement of his own degradation in the shop window, and quite naturally so, for he is a human being and thus has a sense of his own dignity. To overcome ihis complication, his expression of loyalty must take the form of a sign which, at least on its textual surface, indicates a level of disinterested conviction. It must allow the greengrocer to say, "What's wrong with ihe workers of the world uniting?" Thus the sign helps the greengrocer to conceal from himself the low foundations of his obedience, at the same time concealing the low foundations of power. It hides them behind the facade of something high. And that something is ideology.

* * *


Let us now imagine that one day something in our greengrocer snaps and he stops putting up the slogans merely to ingratiate himself. He stops voting in elections he knows are a farce. He begins to say what he really thinks at political meetings. And he even finds the strength in himself to express solidarity with those whom his conscience commands him to support. In this revolt the greengrocer steps out of living within the lie. He rejects the ritual and breaks the rules of the game. He discovers once more his suppressed identity and dignity. He gives his freedom a concrete significance. His revolt is an attempt to live within the truth.

The bill is not long in coming. He will be relieved of his post as manager of the shop and transferred to the warehouse. His pay will be reduced. His hopes for a holiday in Bulgaria will evaporate. His children's access to higher education will be threatened. His superiors will harass him and his fellow workers will wonder about him. Most of those who apply these sanctions, however, will not do so from any authentic inner conviction but simply under pressure from conditions, the same conditions that once pressured the greengrocer to display the official slogans. They will persecute the greengrocer either because it is expected of them, or to demonstrate their loyalty, or simply as part of the general panorama, to which belongs an awareness that this is how situations of this sort are dealt with, that this, in fact, is how things are always done, particularly if one is not to become suspect oneself. The executors, therefore, behave essentially like everyone else, to a greater or lesser degree: as components of the post-totalitarian system, as agents of its automatism, as petty instruments of the social auto-totality.

Thus the power structure, through the agency of those who carry out the sanctions, those anonymous components of the system, will spew the greengrocer from its mouth. The system, through its alienating presence ín people, will punish him for his rebellion. It must do so because the logic of its automatism and self-defense dictate it. The greengrocer has not committed a simple, individual offense, isolated in its own uniqueness, but something incomparably more serious. By breaking the rules of the game, he has disrupted the game as such. He has exposed it as a mere game. He has shattered the world of appearances, the fundamental pillar of the system. He has upset the power structure by tearing apart what holds it together. He has demonstrated that living a lie is living a lie. He has broken through the exalted facade of the system and exposed the real, base foundations of power. He has said that the emperor is naked. And because the emperor is in fact naked, something extremely dangerous has happened: by his action, the greengrocer has addressed the world. He has enabled everyone to peer behind the curtain. He has shown everyone that it is possible to live within the truth. Living within the lie can constitute the system only if it is universal. The principle must embrace and permeate everything. There are no terms whatsoever on which it can co-exist with living within the truth, and therefore everyone who steps out of line denies it in principle and threatens it in its entirety.

This is understandable: as long as appearance is not confronted with reality, it does not seem to be appearance. As long as living a lie is not confronted with living the truth, the perspective needed to expose its mendacity is lacking. As soon as the alternative appears, however, it threatens the very existence of appearance and living a lie in terms of what they are, both their essence and their all-inclusiveness. And at the same time, it is utterly unimportant how large a space this alternative occupies: its power does not consist in its physical attributes but in the light it casts on those pillars of the system and on its unstable foundations. After all, the greengrocer was a threat to the system not because of any physical or actual power he had, but because his action went beyond itself, because it illuminated its surroundings and, of course, because of the incalculable consequences of that illumination. In the post-totalitarian system, therefore, living within the truth has more than a mere existential dimension (returning humanity to its inherent nature), or a noetic dimension (revealing reality as it is), or a moral dimension (setting an example for others). It also has an unambiguous political dimension. If the main pillar of the system is living a lie, then it is not surprising that the fundamental threat to it is living the truth. This is why it must be suppressed more severely than anything else.

In the post-totalitarian system, truth in the widest sense of the word has a very special import, one unknown in other contexts. In this system, truth plays a far greater (and, above all, a far different) role as a factor of power, or as an outright political force. How does the power of truth operate? How does truth as a factor of power work? How can its power-as power-be realized?


Individuals can be alienated from themselves only because there is something in them to alienate. The terrain of this violation is their authentic existence. Living the truth is thus woven directly into the texture of living a lie. It is the repressed alternative, the authentic aim to which living a lie is an inauthentic response. Only against this background does living a lie make any sense: it exists because of that background. In its excusatory, chimerical rootedness in the human order, it is a response to nothing other than the human predisposition to truth. Under the orderly surface of the life of lies, therefore, there slumbers the hidden sphere of life in its real aims, of its hidden openness to truth.

The singular, explosive, incalculable political power of living within the truth resides in the fact that living openly within the truth has an ally, invisible to be sure, but omnipresent: this hidden sphere. It is from this sphere that life lived openly in the truth grows; it is to this sphere that it speaks, and in it that it finds understanding. This is where the potential for communication exists. But this place is hidden and therefore, from the perspective of power, very dangerous. The complex ferment that takes place within it goes on in semidarkness, and by the time it finally surfaces into the light of day as an assortment of shocking surprises to the system, it is usually too late to cover them up in the usual fashion. Thus they create a situation in which the regime is confounded, invariably causing panic and driving it to react in inappropriate ways.

* * *

Therefore it seems to me that not even the so-called dissident movements can be properly understood without constantly bearing in mind this special background from which they emerge.


The profound crisis of human identity brought on by living within a lie, a crisis which in turn makes such a life possible, certainly possesses a moral dimension as well; it appears, among other things, as a deep moral crisis in society. A person who has been seduced by the consumer value system, whose identity is dissolved in an amalgam of the accouterments of mass civilization, and who has no roots in the order of being, no sense of responsibility for anything higher than his own personal survival, is a demoralized person. The system depends on this demoralization, deepens it, is in fact a projection of it into society.

Living within the truth, as humanity's revolt against an enforced position, is, on the contrary, an attempt to regain control over one's own sense of responsibility. In other words, it is clearly a moral act, not only because one must pay so dearly for it, but principally because it is not self-serving: the risk may bring rewards in the form of a general amelioration in the situation, or it may not. In this regard, as I stated previously, it is an all-or-nothing gamble, and it is difficult to imagine a reasonable person embarking on such a course merely because he reckons that sacrifice today will bring rewards tomorrow, be it only in the form of general gratitude. (By the way, the representatives of power invariably come to terms with those who live within the truth by persistently ascribing utilitarian motivations to them-a lust for power or fame or wealth-and thus they try, at least, to implicate them in their own world, the world of general demoralization.)


* * *

Who are these "dissidents"?

* * *

Perhaps it is now appropriate to outline some of the reasons why "dissidents" themselves are not very happy to be referred to in this way. In the first place, the word is problematic from an etymological point of view. A "dissident," we are told in our press, means something like "renegade" or "backslider." But dissidents do not consider themselves renegades for the simple reason that they are not primarily denying or rejecting anything. On the contrary, they have tried to affirm their own human identity, and if they reject anything at all, then it is merely what was false and alienating in their lives, that aspect of living within a lie.

But that is not the most important thing. The term "dissident" frequently implies a special profession, as if, along with the more normal vocations, there were another special onegrumbling about the state of things. In fact, a "dissident" is simply a physicist, a sociologist, a worker, a poet, individuals who are doing what they feel they must and, consequently, who find themselves in open conflict with the regime. This conflict has not come about through any conscious intention on their part, but simply through the inner logic of their thinking, behavior, or work (often confronted with external circumstances more or less beyond their control). They have not, in other words, consciously decided to be professional malcontents, rather as one decides to be a tailor or a blacksmith.

In fact, of course, they do not usually discover they are "dissidents" until long after they have actually become one. "Dissent" springs from motivations far different from the desire for titles or fame. In short, they do not decide to become "dissidents," and even if they were to devote twenty-four hours a day to it, it would still not be a profession, but primarily an existential attitude. Moreover, it is an attitude that is in no way the exclusive property of those who have earned themselves the title of "dissident" just because they happen to fulfill those accidental external conditions already mentioned. There are thousands of nameless people who try to live within the truth and millions who want to but cannot, perhaps only because to do so in the circumstances in which they live, they would need ten times the courage of those who have already taken the first step. If several dozen are randomly chosen from among all these people and put into a special category, this can utterly distort the general picture. It does so in two different ways. Either it suggests that "dissidents" are a group of prominent people, a protected species who are permitted to do things others are not and whom the government may even be cultivating as living proof of its generosity; or it lends support to the illusion that since there is no more than a handful of malcontents to whom not very much is really being done, all the rest are therefore content, for were they not so, they would be "dissidents" too.

* * *


* * *

All of this, however, is not the main reason why the "dissident" movements support the principle of legality. That reason lies deeper, in the innermost structure of the "dissident" attitude. This attitude is and must be fundamentally hostile toward the notion of violent change-simply because it places its faith in violence. (Generally, the "dissident" attitude can only accept violence as a necessary evil in extreme situations, when direct violence can only be met by violence and where remaining passive would in effect mean supporting violence: let us recall, for example, that the blindness of European pacifism was one of the factors that prepared the ground for.che Second World War.) As I have already mentioned, "dissidents" tend to be skeptical about political thought based on the faith that profound social changes can only be achieved by bringing about (regardless of the method) changes in the system or in the government, and the belief that such changes-because they are considered "fundamental" justify the sacrifice of "less fundamental" things, in other words, human lives. Respect for a theoretical concept here outweighs respect for human life. Yet this is precisely what threatens to enslave humanity all over again.

"Dissident" movements, as I have tried to indicate, share exactly the opposite view. They understand systemic change as something superficial, something secondary, something that in itself can guarantee nothing. Thus an attitude that turns away from abstract political visions of the future toward concrete human beings and ways of defending them effectively in the here and now is quite naturally accompanied by an intensified antipathy to all forms of violence carried out in the name of a better future, and by a profound belief that a future secured by violence might actually be worse than what exists now; in other words, the future would be fatally stigmatized by the very means used to secure it. At the same time, this attitude is not to be mistaken for political conser vatism or political moderation.. The "dissident" movements do not shy away from the idea of violent political overthrow because the idea seems too radical, but on the contrary, because it does not seem radical enough. For them, the problem lies far too deep to be settled through mere systemic changes, either governmental or technological. Some people, faithful to the classical Marxist doctrines of the nineteenth century, understand our system as the hegemony of an exploiting class over an exploited class and, operating from the postulate that exploiters never surrender their power voluntarily, they see the only solution in a revolution to sweep away the exploitersNaturally, they regard such things as the struggle for human rights as something hopelessly legalistic, illusory, opportunistic, and ultimately misleading because it makes the doubtful assumption that you can negotiate in good faith with your exploiters on the basis of a false legality. The problem is that they are unable to find anyone determined enough to carry out this revolution, with the result that they become bitter, skeptical, passive, and ultimately apathetic-in other words, they end up precisely where the system wants them to be. This is one example of how far one can be misled by mechanically applying, in post-totalitarian circumstances, ideological models from another world and another time.

* * *

But an essential part of the "dissident" attitude is that it comes out of the reality of the human here and now. It places more importance on often repeated and consistent concrete action-even though it may be inadequate...

* * *

Is the basic job of the "dissident" movements is to serve truth, that is, to serve the real aims of life, and if that necessarily develops into a defense of individuals and their right to a free and truthful life (that is, a defense of human rights and a struggle to see the laws respected), then another stage of this approach, perhaps the most mature stage so far, is what Václav Benda called the development of "parallel structures."

When those who have decided to live within the truth have been denied any direct influence on the existing social structures, not to mention the opportunity to participate in them, and when these people begin to create what I have called the independent life of society, this independent life begins, of itself, to become structured in a certain way. Sometimes there are only very embryonic indications of this process of structuring; at other times, the structures are already quite well developed. Their genesis and evolution are inseparable from the phenomenon of "dissent," even though they reach far beyond the arbitrarily defined area of activity usually indicated by that term.

* * *


* * *

We do not know the way out of the marasmus of the world, and it would be an expression of unforgivable pride were we to see the little we do as a fundamental solution, or were we to present ourselves, our community, and our solutions to vital problems as the only thing worth doing.

Even so, I think that given all these preceding thoughts on post-totalitarian conditions, and given the circumstances and the inner constitution of the developing efforts to defend human beings and their identity in such conditions, the questions I have posed are appropriate. If nothing else, they are an invitation to reflect concretely on our own experience and to give some thought to whether certain elements of that experience do not-without our really being aware of it-point somewhere further, beyond their apparent limits, and whether right here, in our everyday lives, certain challenges are not already encoded, quietly waiting for the moment when they will be read and grasped.

For the real question is whether the brighter future is really always so distant. What if, on the contrary, it has been here for a long time already, and only our own blindness and weakness has prevented us from seeing it around us and within us, and kept us from developing it?


I am further reminded of the passage in Acts 17:6 (in part), in which the disciples were accused of having "turned the world upside down" (KJV).

Dissidents? Yes, dissidents...
One, Two.


From Peter James Lee:

* * *

Because we believe that God’s promises to his people continue to be reliable, we will seek the return of the churches of the Diocese of Virginia that are occupied by dissidents.

We are commanded by scripture to obey the civil authority. (Rom. 13) While St. Paul admonishes individual Christians to avoid lawsuits with one another, obedience to the rule of law is a more controlling teaching. We believe the law supports diocesan ownership of church property.

In some of our congregations, members led by their lay and ordained leadership, have voted to leave The Episcopal Church and to affiliate with a non-recognized organization of churches purportedly under the authority of Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola. The organization is known as CANA, or Convocation of Anglicans in North America.

* * *
It is for these persons that previous generations of Episcopalians worshiped, worked, prayed and gave generously for the spread of the Kingdom of God. It is the trust that they created, and that we inherited, which now we must move to protect, preserve and expand for generations to come.

* * *

God is doing a new thing.


Peter James Lee


From today's Lectionary:

Psalm 37

Of David.
1 Do not fret because of evil men
or be envious of those who do wrong;

2 for like the grass they will soon wither,
like green plants they will soon die away.

3 Trust in the LORD and do good;
dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.

4 Delight yourself in the LORD
and he will give you the desires of your heart.

5 Commit your way to the LORD;
trust in him and he will do this:

6 He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn,
the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.

7 Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him;
do not fret when men succeed in their ways,
when they carry out their wicked schemes.

8 Refrain from anger and turn from wrath;
do not fret—it leads only to evil.

9 For evil men will be cut off,
but those who hope in the LORD will inherit the land.

10 A little while, and the wicked will be no more;
though you look for them, they will not be found.

11 But the meek will inherit the land
and enjoy great peace.

12 The wicked plot against the righteous
and gnash their teeth at them;

13 but the Lord laughs at the wicked,
for he knows their day is coming.

14 The wicked draw the sword
and bend the bow
to bring down the poor and needy,
to slay those whose ways are upright.

15 But their swords will pierce their own hearts,
and their bows will be broken.

16 Better the little that the righteous have
than the wealth of many wicked;

17 for the power of the wicked will be broken,
but the LORD upholds the righteous.

18 The days of the blameless are known to the LORD,
and their inheritance will endure forever.

19 In times of disaster they will not wither;
in days of famine they will enjoy plenty.

20 But the wicked will perish:
The LORD's enemies will be like the beauty of the fields,
they will vanish—vanish like smoke.

21 The wicked borrow and do not repay,
but the righteous give generously;

22 those the LORD blesses will inherit the land,
but those he curses will be cut off.

23 If the LORD delights in a man's way,
he makes his steps firm;

24 though he stumble, he will not fall,
for the LORD upholds him with his hand.

25 I was young and now I am old,
yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken
or their children begging bread.

26 They are always generous and lend freely;
their children will be blessed.

27 Turn from evil and do good;
then you will dwell in the land forever.

28 For the LORD loves the just
and will not forsake his faithful ones.
They will be protected forever,
but the offspring of the wicked will be cut off;

29 the righteous will inherit the land
and dwell in it forever.

30 The mouth of the righteous man utters wisdom,
and his tongue speaks what is just.

31 The law of his God is in his heart;
his feet do not slip.

32 The wicked lie in wait for the righteous,
seeking their very lives;

33 but the LORD will not leave them in their power
or let them be condemned when brought to trial.

34 Wait for the LORD
and keep his way.
He will exalt you to inherit the land;
when the wicked are cut off, you will see it.

35 I have seen a wicked and ruthless man
flourishing like a green tree in its native soil,

36 but he soon passed away and was no more;
though I looked for him, he could not be found.

37 Consider the blameless, observe the upright;
there is a future for the man of peace.

38 But all sinners will be destroyed;
the future of the wicked will be cut off.

39 The salvation of the righteous comes from the LORD;
he is their stronghold in time of trouble.

40 The LORD helps them and delivers them;
he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
because they take refuge in him.

Psalm 37 New International Version.