Tuesday, April 21, 2015

IT IS MY SINCERE BELIEF...



...that Louisiana Rep. Mike Johnson (R) belongs on the hot seat for introducing his bill that will allow businesses to refuse service to people who offend their sincere religious beliefs. It's not discrimination, says Johnson. Watch the video of the interview by a reporter from the Times-Picayune which you will understand only if you know the language of BS.

About the pushback, Johnson says, "In some sense, we're victims of the times", and his amendment makes it clear that businesses will be able to discriminate only against same sex couples and will not "open a Pandora's box" and allow businesses to discriminate, say, against interracial couples. Curb your discrimination!

Poor persecuted Christian victims. Give it up, Mike. The equality train left the station some time ago. We can but hope the bill will take its place in the graveyard of died-in-committee bills. Louisiana is in deep financial difficulty already without pernicious legislation that will drive away businesses, conventions, and tourists, but with the Louisiana Legislature, one can never be certain they will do the right thing for the citizens of the state.

STUDENTS AND ALUMNI OF GENERAL THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY WRITE TO NY ATTORNEY GENERAL

Thus far, the powers-that-be in the Episcopal Church have refused to intervene in the controversy at General Theological Seminary, though the future of the oldest seminary in the church looks bleak, indeed.
After worldwide publicity and further protests, several students left at midyear, and the board provisionally reinstated the faculty only for the rest of the academic year, while canceling their academic tenure. No new hires have been announced and several top librarians have left. Only one entering student has paid a deposit for admission next fall. The seminary’s accreditation by the Association of Theological Schools is under review; if there’s no faculty, no library, no accreditation and no students, there’s no seminary.
How can the church speak out on justice for workers when one of its own institutions treats employees with such disrespect? For church leaders to wash their hands of a controversy that has been destructive to the church's oldest and own seminary is nearly beyond belief.

Perhaps NY Attorney General Eric Schneiderman will take up the cause. The refusal of the seminary Board of Trustees and President and Dean Kurt Dunkle to address the concerns of the faculty and the subsequent acceptance of resignations that were never offered were and are the business of the leadership of the church. How sad that no statement of concern or compassion was forthcoming from the leaders, and an appeal for justice had to be made outside the church.  Just today, I learned that another GTS faculty member has resigned.  Of the GTS8 faculty, only five remain at the seminary now.

From President and Dean Dunkle's latest communication on the website of the seminary:
Let me open with a transparent recognition: the past six months at General have been challenging for everyone. Our recent upheaval has been painful and revealing. General faces many challenges–financial, missional and cultural–and all of them have been highlighted over this past year.
...to say the least.  But do not despair:
Despite the snapshot of conflict, the portrait of General’s fundamental goal of “educating and forming future leaders for a changing church in a changing world” remains unaltered. Our work to create financial, missional, and cultural sustainability in order to maintain relevance to the 21st century church is now more important than ever.
Good luck with that.  The positioning of the three major challenges facing the seminary caught my attention, with finances in first place, which may or may not represent the priorities of the dean and the trustees.  Dean Dunkle goes on to say:
We are also proactively addressing our financial challenges. Last year, General suffered a $3.0 million cash deficit; this year, we anticipate it to be half that. Next year, we are working hard to cut it in half again. 
The seminary will save money with the departures of the faculty, but the question remains, is it possible for the seminary to carry out it's mission of educating and forming future leaders for a changing church in a changing worldwith the remaining faculty, or are new hires waiting in the wings who will accept lower wages without tenure?  Perhaps adjuncts?  Also, as is stated in the letter to the NY attorney general:
The seminary’s accreditation by the Association of Theological Schools is under review; if there’s no faculty, no library, no accreditation and no students, there’s no seminary.
If there is no seminary, the trustees will save a bundle of money, and then what?  Who will answer the question posed in the letter?
Was this alleged egregious conduct by the administration calculated to force the seminary to close? It appears to have been groomed for failure. The High Line is one of the hottest places in the city right now, and General Seminary sits right on it.
Only deafening silence from Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and the central office of the Episcopal Church.  If the intention was to close the seminary, then it most certainly should and could have been done with more compassion and dignity.

Since GTS is the one Episcopal seminary under the authority of the General Convention of the Episcopal Church, I wonder if GC15 will address the dire situation at its meeting later this year.

UPDATE: There are now four entering students who have paid deposits.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

A CIRCUMSCRIBED LIFE

Yesterday morning, far too early and before I was fully functional, a cousin whom I haven't heard from in a long time called. I don't much care for talking on the phone at the best of times, but never when I'm just waking up. My cousin said she was giving a presentation and wanted to know which of the men in a copy of a photo of two Confederate soldier brothers in uniform was our common ancestor.

She then asked how we were, and I asked how she was, and she said that she had a pacemaker but was otherwise fine and always on the go, with club meetings, her garden club and the Catholic Daughters and such. She is two years older than I am, but she must have a great deal more energy than I do.

She asked me what I was up to, and I said I was a bit of a hermit, that my socializing was confined mainly to my immediate family, children and grandchildren, an occasional lunch with a friend, going to church, and that I enjoyed the internet. She said, "I never use a computer." All right, then.

When the phone call was over, I told Tom I felt sort of sad, because my life seemed so circumscribed compared to hers. And then, I said, "Wait! I never participated in any of that sort of activity when I was young!" I am not a joiner; the only club I've ever belonged to was a literary club, but, when the quality of the books we read deteriorated, I withdrew.

I never asked my cousin where she was giving her presentation, because, as I've said, I was not yet fully functional, but I wondered afterward if the Daughters of the Confederacy was another one of her clubs.

Maybe I need a pacemaker.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

ALLELUIA! CHRIST IS RISEN!

Fra Angelico - Convento di San Marco, Florence

The Lord is risen, indeed. Alleluia!
After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, “He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.” This is my message for you.’ So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them and said, ‘Greetings!’ And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshipped him. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.’ (Matthew 28: 1-10)
Collect for the Great Vigil of Easter
Dear friends in Christ: On this most holy night, in which our Lord Jesus passed over from death to life, the Church invites
her members, dispersed throughout the world, to gather in
vigil and prayer. For this is the Passover of the Lord, in which,
by hearing his Word and celebrating his Sacraments, we share
in his victory over death.

Let us pray.


O God, through your Son you have bestowed upon your
people the brightness of your light: Sanctify this new fire, and
grant that in this Paschal feast we may so burn with heavenly
desires, that with pure minds we may attain to the festival of
everlasting light; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.



Image from the Web Gallery of Art.

UPDATE: Our Easter Vigil celebration at St John's Episcopal Church, according to the liturgy in "The Book of Common Prayer", was joyful and lovely last evening.  First a fire was lit outside in the churchyard, then a member of the clergy lit the large Paschal candle from the fire, followed by the lighting of smaller candles for the congregation. The cantor sang prayers, and then the congregation processed into the darkened church with their candles.  Once we were inside, we heard several lessons from the Hebrew Testament, the seven days creation story, the story of the parting of the Red Sea in Exodus, and readings from the prophets Isaiah and Zephaniah.  The lights came on and the Eucharistic liturgy followed.  The congregation, choir, and clergy made a joyful noise unto the Lord in prayer and song.

BARBARA PYM AND HER EXCELLENT WOMEN

Credit: Andrew Whittuck
Lovely essay by Hannah Rosefield on attending a meeting of the Barbara Pym Society in Boston and a peek into Pym's novels.  I have them all, and I've read them more than once, always with delight in her fine prose style and smiles at her wit, which sometimes bites and at other times is tinged with rue.

As Rosefield says, 'Mildred is one of the “excellent women” of her novel’s title: efficient, virtuous and uncomplaining, expecting little and receiving little. Her clergyman father has died, and she lives in reduced circumstances in London, where she works part time for the Society for the Care of Distressed Gentlewomen (“a cause very near to my own heart, as I felt that I was just the kind of person who might one day become one”).'

Pym is quite often not generous to her male characters, as Rosefield says, "The very names of Pym’s male characters (Rockingham Napier, Alaric Lydgate) make it clear that they are better as romantic fantasies than as husbands." My favorite name is Everard Bone, the anthropologist, a character in "Excellent Women".

Rosefield's description of the few of Pym's excellent women who marry, as opposed to the many who remain spinsters, as "married spinsters" resonates, because I believe I may be one of them.

Friday, April 3, 2015

GOOD FRIDAY - "ECCE HOMO"


CARAVAGGIO - "Ecce Homo" - Palazzo Rosso, Genoa

John 19:5
So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, ‘Here is the man!’
Isaiah 53:1-5
Who has believed what we have heard?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by others;
a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity;
and as one from whom others hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him of no account.

Surely he has borne our infirmities
and carried our diseases;
yet we accounted him stricken,
struck down by God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions,
crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the punishment that made us whole,
and by his bruises we are healed.
Caravaggio is one of my many favorite painters. When I walk into a museum gallery with one or more of his paintings on the walls, my eyes are immediately drawn to them, and I catch my breath. The dramatic contrast of light and shade is stunning.

In the comments to my blog friend Counterlight's excellent post on the artist, I said to him, "All through looking at the paintings and reading your commentary, I thought, 'Incarnation. Incarnation.' That's one of Caravaggio's great gifts to us in religious painting."

However true that may be, it's not surprising that the obvious eroticism in certain of the artist's paintings on religious subjects drew rather heavy criticism his way. Caravaggio died at the young age of 38. Considering his short life as a painter, his legacy is extraordinary.

Collect of the Day: Good Friday
Almighty God, we pray you graciously to behold this your family, for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed, and given into the hands of sinners, and to suffer death upon the cross; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Image from the Web Gallery of Art.

Reposted from an earlier Good Friday.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

THE AFTERMATH OF ILLNESS

Tom's diagnosis of colon cancer rocked us both.  The weeks while we waited for the processes leading up to surgery to be completed were difficult, but we tried to keep busy and distracted, and we mostly succeeded.   The news after the surgery was surely as good as could be expected: the tumor was small, and the nearby lymph nodes were cancer free, and there was joy in Butlerland when Tom came home. 

Then, within a few days, came Tom's loss of appetite and vomiting.  I knew something was very wrong when I saw the greenish-black bile, but x-rays in the doctor's office were inconclusive as to whether there was an obstruction.  The vomiting continued, and Tom was readmitted to the hospital, and it was determined that there was an obstruction, a complication that never happens, but leave it to Tom... 

Tom is recovering nicely now, probably doing a bit too much too soon, but, so far, he appears to have done no harm to himself.  I told him if he has to go back in the hospital, I will not visit, but that's not true.

All of the above took a toll on both of us, and, though Tom seems the same, I'm sure the experience changed him, but in a way I can't yet see.  What I do know is that I have not yet regained my emotional equilibrium, such as it was, since the surgery.  I've thought about why I'm not yet my old self, and, indeed, somewhat accepted the fact that I may never be my old self, because life is change.

My one conclusion thus far is that when I was diagnosed with breast cancer 29 years ago, I looked my own death in the face, and I was changed.  The word "cancer" has a way of concentrating the mind wonderfully on the reality that humans, including me, are mortal.  I've been blessed with 29 years of life after the dread diagnosis, and I'm most grateful for the years, every one of which seems a gift.

But (and it's a huge "but") I had not faced Tom's mortality in any real way until now.  The good news is that I've come to realize in a way that I didn't before how much he means to me, but the not-so-good news is that the reality is scary, and my emotions, which are almost always near the surface, are out of kilter and somewhat flattened and kept at bay.  What to do? 

When two people live together for 53-plus years, the rather minor annoying habits of the other can come to loom rather large in daily life, so I've determined not to call Tom's attention to every little annoyance and to make a general attempt to be kinder and less of a scold.  In other words, don't sweat the small stuff.  And be kind.

In time, I hope to recover emotional equilibrium, and I believe I will, but, in the meantime, I'm thankful for each day Tom and I have together, and I will try to be kind, and not just to Tom.  I will often fail, but I hope I don't give up trying.

When certain Christians ask, "Are you saved?" I answer, "Yes, every day."  And that's true, and some few days I need to be saved from just lying in bed all day.  A strength that seemed to come from beyond me carried me through the stressful period, and I trust that same source, God in Jesus, will carry me the rest of the way.  You see, I believe salvation is about here and now, for today, and not so much for the sweet bye-and-bye, because I have no idea what happens in the sweet bye-and-bye.  But I have today, for which I'm grateful, and I believe God is with me, with us, to give us healing, strength, and courage.

Monday, March 30, 2015

MOONRISE KINGDOM

Earlier in the week, I watched the delightful, poignant, funny, sweet movie, "Moonrise Kingdom". The cast includes Jared Gilman, as Sam, and Kara Hayward, as Suzy, the 12 year old pair who run away together and cause concern and mayhem in the lives of the adults who are responsible for them. The two young actors shine in their roles. The stellar actors in the other roles are fantastic - Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, and Tilda Swinton, an embarrassment of riches, yes? Suspend disbelief (which is easy to do), and enjoy a very good time.

Monday, March 23, 2015

PEOPLE IN THE LOUISIANA HEALTH CARE COMMUNITY ARE NOW NERVOUS

Are doctors and hospital administrators just now noticing lots of "ifs" in Jindal's health care budgets, or is it just now that they are willing to speak out?  I've been waiting.
The Jindal administration’s proposed health care budget relies on more than $500 million in funding that is contingent on several things happening first — and that’s making people in the health care community nervous.

“We have great concerns that it’s really not achievable,” said Paul Salles, who heads the Louisiana Hospital Association, the professional group representing most of the state’s hospitals.

“It’s something on paper,” Salles said, but “it leaves us really exposed to dire straits.”

“To say there are a lot of contingencies would be an understatement,” said Jennifer Marusak, governmental affairs director for the Louisiana State Medical Society, a professional association that represents physicians.
And they're just now getting nervous?  For years Jindal's budgets have relied on bait and switch, use of one-time funds, and contingencies that may not happen to fill the annual budget gap.
“It’s a mess,” said Berkeley Durbin, who heads MedicineLouisiana, a statewide physicians group.

“I don’t think anybody thinks that’s real. I don’t know where we find the money,” Durbin said, adding that he doesn’t consider legislative passage of the tax credit changes to be a sure thing.
I haven't believed Jindal's budgets were real in years.  Where have they been?

Jindal cares not a whit about the people of Louisiana, but only about his overweening ambition to become president of the United States, which we now know is highly unlikely, as Jindal hardly registers in the polls of likely GOP candidates.  He hopes to leave office before a complete and obvious collapse of the state health care system and other institutions and programs, leaving the state in dire straits and the next governor to clean up the mess.

Also, as I have said many times before, Jindal could not have destroyed or damaged institutions and programs in Louisiana single-handedly.  A compliant legislature was necessary to complete the plunder.  Jindal is not the only Louisiana official to sign Grover Norquist's pledge not to raise taxes.
Thirty-two elected officials currently serving in the state and federal government have signed "no new tax" pledges with the group, according to the Americans for Tax Reform website.

Every Republican member of Louisiana's congressional delegation -- except Garret Graves -- has committed to it. Twenty-six members of the Louisiana Legislature have also taken the oath.
How anyone can still be surprised that Jindal's budgets are little more than flimflammery is beyond me, but welcome aboard, doctors and hospital administrators.  Better late than never.

Friday, March 13, 2015

THOUGHTS FROM A MUSHY BRAIN

Many of you already know that reading David Brooks' columns in the New York Times turns my brain to mush.  His latest on Friday the 13th is no exception, so if I sound a bit strange in this post, you know why.  About the Hilary Clinton email story, I think it's much like Whitewater; there's no there there. Suppose she had used two email accounts, the State Department account for business and a private account for personal correspondence.  She could have deleted the emails in her personal account at any time. Besides, Colin Powell did it, and the Cheney/Bush maladministration did it, too.

Brooks once again presents the false equivalency between the president's actions and the actions of the Republicans in what may be one of the worst Congresses in history in terms of getting anything done and blocking every policy of the president, simply because it's his, even when the policy originated in the Republican Party.  His repeated use of the technique is quite annoying and mush-making for my poor brain.
All the informal self-restraints that softened the brutality of politics are being torn away. It’s like going to a dinner party where all the little customs of politeness are gone and everything is just grab what you can when you can.
It seems to me that Obama has been pretty damned polite in the face of ugly and shameful personal attacks and insults that demonstrate a complete lack of self-restraint from certain Republicans and a shocking disrespect for the office of the president.  And they call themselves patriots and claim Obama doesn't really love America!  Who is it that doesn't love America?

But the worst of the column is in the following two paragraphs:
The only way to reverse the protocol crisis is to create policies that can win bipartisan support. If the next president gets the substance right, the manners will follow.

Can Hillary Clinton do this? Is she strong enough to rise above hostility, to instead reveal scary and vulnerable parts of herself so that voters feel as though they can trust and relate to her? We’ll see. 
Which policies of substance would those be, David, that would be win bipartisan support and inspire a polite response from Republicans?  Dream on.  The model for Obamacare is Romneycare, which Mitt Romney (R) signed into law when he was governor of Massachusetts.  Was that sufficient to blunt the opposition?  Lawsuit after lawsuit to have the program declared unconstitutional instigated by Republicans is your answer.  If Clinton announces she will be a candidate for president, we will see drama on steroids, as we saw throughout Bill Clinton's presidency. 

The present attacks on Clinton are all about Benghazi and trying to catch her in some heinous dereliction of duty that caused the death of Ambassador Christopher Stevens, Sean Smith, and the two Marines in the diplomatic facility in Benghazi.  Republicans seem to suggest in a roundabout way that Clinton may have attempted a coverup about Benghazi by deleting her personal email correspondence.  Benghazi! Benghazi!  Benghazi!  The story will never be over for them, though the matter has been thoroughly investigated by Congress, and we will hear about it from Republicans till kingdom come, either overtly or covertly, as in the email flap.
A two-year investigation by the Republican-controlled House Intelligence Committee has found that the CIA and the military acted properly in responding to the 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, and asserted no wrongdoing by Obama administration appointees.
While I admit the Clintons attract drama as flypaper attracts flies, I'd like for Brooks to name  a Democratic candidate for president who could work with the present Congress and inspire them to practice good manners.  Also, is Brooks strong enough to reveal scary and vulnerable parts of himself so that readers feel as though they can trust and relate to him?