An American classic

A Promised Land by Barack Obama

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This is a must read for all folks who were alive to witness the first African-American President in the history of the United States of America. The book was a pleasure to read. There is no doubt in my mind that Barack Obama will be viewed as one of the most effective leaders in modern American history. I thoroughly enjoyed the book.



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When all you have is a hammer…

There’s an old expression, “when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” That seems to be the case in the spate of police killings of black men and women in the United States of America. There were calls last summer to ‘defund the police’ and that of course spawned a reaction on the right. We need police. What we don’t need is needless killing of innocent people in apparent mistakes.

Five years ago my wife and visited the United Kingdom and Ireland and there the police do not carry firearms. A couple of years ago I visited Italy and there the police do carry firearms. Where did a I feel safer? Wales and Ireland of course. Despite the popularity of weapons in the United States there are always accidental discharges that result in loss of life. Daunte Wright would be alive today without the accidental discharge of a weapon. The policeman who killed Daunte said they mistook a tazer which is holstered on the opposite side of the officer from their service weapon. A startled officer confronting an unarmed suspect shoots the suspect by mistake. The innocent suspect dies as the result of a mistake.

We need other options. There must be a better way. Why the use of deadly force for a vehicle infraction?

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ACLU-MN RESPONDS TO POLICE KILLING OF DAUNTE WRIGHT | ACLU of Minnesota

Police killed Daunte Wright, 20, during a traffic stop in Brooklyn Center Sunday afternoon. Yet another Black life was taken by those sworn to protect, and we join the community in mourning Wright’s loss.
— Read on www.aclu-mn.org/en/press-releases/aclu-mn-responds-police-killing-daunte-wright

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‘We Need Police-Free Schools’: Survey Finds 2/3 of US Students Want Cops Removed From Campus

Keeping police in schools doesn’t prepare students nor does it necessarily protect teachers. Schools need to be sanctuaries for the students who come there. There must be better ways to protect students and staff than stationing armed police in school districts.

Source: ‘We Need Police-Free Schools’: Survey Finds 2/3 of US Students Want Cops Removed From Campus

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Celebrating libraries

This week is National Library Week in the United States. Yesterday I visited one of our local public libraries and borrowed a book. Visiting libraries has always been a religious experience for me. I grew up next to the Arcade Free Library. I spent much of my youth there. It was in that library and others that my imagination was piqued. I remember a book whose title I have long since forgotten where a little boy carved a dugout canoe complete with an indigenous person paddling it. He placed it in a creek and miraculously it made its way all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. That story inspired me to try the same. I don’t know if my primitive dugout ever made it to the gulf but I gave it a try.

After retiring from public education nearly eight years ago I started volunteering in our local library. That led to a stint on the board of trustees. Later I became a trustee of the Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Library System. In the past nearly eight years I have been spending a lot of time in libraries again. I’m enjoying that association with public libraries that began so many years ago. I don’t know how much you read but I’m grateful that my life has been spent in public libraries reading and learning.

I encourage you to visit your local public library this week and borrow a book.

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Rethinking religion

Today’s edition of The Guardian had a lead article about how the religious right is fueling the decline of religion in America. I think that’s true but it goes deeper than that. While observing the Easter Vigil on Saturday night and listening to the readings from Genesis about how God created the world in seven days I was struck by how out of touch these readings are with what we know from modern science. I love the vigil service and always have because there is something very mystical and wonderful about it. Nonetheless, how can the church and Christendom in general still cling to a world view that clearly ancient.

Last fall I took a course at a local Christian college via Zoom. The focus of the course was on science and the Bible. The professor did a good job of not interjecting his own thinking and inviting our own nevertheless many of my classmates clung to the traditional interpretation of the creation story. This winter I took another online course where read about the creation story from an indigenous people in North America. I actually liked their story better as it envisioned the creator of the world as more feminine. That creation story is viewed as primitive in Christian circles while the biblical creation story is viewed as inerrant as it comes from the Bible. Mythologized history can be beautiful as the story of Genesis is and so too the story of Skywoman falling to earth.

Just this week I read, This is How it Always is, and was struck by our primitive and savage reactions to people who identify as LGBTQ+. There are some who identify as Christians in this country that continue to persecute and condemn on the basis of their religious beliefs. These folks seek to impose this narrow world view on the rest of us. While reading the book I was shocked to learn that forty-percent of those folks who identify as transgender commit suicide. How can anyone who calls themselves pro-life countenance this tragedy.

It’s not surprising then that millennials are leaving or disregarding religion and choosing to follow their own hearts. one of my favorite quotes from Karl Rahner is, “In the days ahead, you will either be a mystic (one who has experienced God for real) or nothing at all.” Mystics follow their hearts. They’re not bogged down by dogma. I don’t see creative force of universe as exclusive. God or if you will the higher power created everything and everyone. I try to respect all creation even that which I cannot understand. Considering a different creation story based on quantum physics and a continually expanding evolution of consciousness hasn’t stifled my belief in God. On the contrary these thoughts have encouraged me to consider the evolution of consciousness and the continued evolution of the creative force that spawns it.

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This light that has overcome the darkness

I’m a fan of Matthew Fox. He and other theologians like Ilia Delio and John Duns Scotus have influenced my thinking too. Today is Easter for many in the world and the familiar greeting among many of the world’s Christians is “He is risen.” He has risen and he was crucified, died and was buried. Many Christians believe that his death was a necessary atonement for original sin. Last night as I was sitting in the chapel at Mount Irenaeus and participating in the Easter Vigil service I reflected on the emphasis on the light of Christ. I love the vigil service at the Mountain because it begins outside with some readings and blessings and the lighting of a fire and the lighting of the Paschal candle followed by a procession into the chapel.

The overemphasis of the crucifixion which was horrible indeed is that much of the teaching and living of Jesus is overlooked. It’s easy to go through the motions of being saved and then living an apparently un-redeemed life. Following the Christ invites transformation. How has Christ transformed me and us? How am I sharing that light with the world around me? Am I following this light that overcomes the darkness? He is risen today and everyday. What is the vision of the messiah? I believe it’s living in brotherhood/sisterhood with all that is created. That includes rocks, trees, animals, plants. It all bears the imprint of the most high. Living in communion with everyone even those folks who I find uncomfortable. Everything belongs.

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There is a middle way

This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This is a wonderful book about a subject that I know very little about. Now, having read the book I know a bit more. It’s every parents wish that their child have a happy life and being gender non-conforming must be terribly rough on the parents and children. Too much of our life and society in general in this country is about either/or when life itself is really about both/and. I recommend this book to everyone young and old with a passion for learning more about people. I especially recommend it for anyone involved remotely in education. This story covered a range of emotions for me. It was a mix of both laughter and tears. There is a middle way and acceptance is the key.


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Celebrating the Passion

Today is the first day of Holy Week in the Catholic Church and other Christian churches as well. Today at Mass they Passion of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be read. We will remember how he rode triumphantly into Jerusalem on this day on a donkey colt. We will hear how the crowd spread palm fronds and shouted “Hosanna.” The readings will recount the last supper the Garden of Gethsemane, the arrest, imprisonment and eventual crucifixion of the Jesus. We will genuflect as the moment of his death is read. We will rise again like he did on the third day. We will remember all of this as we do each year. But will we connect the events of two thousand years ago with the events of today?

Will we connect the passion and death of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Freddie Gray, the Asian Americans in Atlanta, the innocents in the Colorado supermarket? Will we think of the passion and suffering of the those LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters? Will we connect the passion and death of Christ with the outrage on our southern border? Will we ask why women are not priests? Will we see the passion, destruction and death of our mother earth? Is Holy Week just an event where we think of the itinerant Palestinian carpenter who came to show us how to live?

Will we continue to trivialize the life of the Christ who came not merely to die on a tree so that two thousand years later we could sprinkle water on our heads and claim to be saved by his name while we openly persecute those created in his image? In a couple of weeks our granddaughter Fiona Katherine will be baptized. I hope that she will be filled with the Holy Spirit on that day as I’m sure she already is. I hope that the Holy Spirit will fill her heart with a hunger for righteousness for the goodness of creation and the welfare of her fellow humans. I hope that she will hunger and thirst for a rightful place for women in our world.

The passion of Christ is more than remembering the events that took place in Jerusalem two thousand years ago for me. Peace.

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Be a neighbor not a nut

Most of the pro-gun folks have serious insecurity issues that need to be addressed. Phobic fear of your neighbors and “the government” is what fuels most of these kooks. Just today while waiting to purchase a coffee and sandwich in a fast food establishment I heard a couple of sixty-something fellows blathering about their right to own an assault rifle. The AR-15 is a weapon of war. It’s not designed for accuracy. It’s designed for maximum rate of fire. They are not good for target practice and they’re less than ideal for serious hunters.

Occasionally I hear folks thanking me for my military service. If you’d really like to thank me in a meaningful way, advocate for serious gun reform. The rest of us law abiding citizens shouldn’t have to abide your desires to own military hardware. Don’t tell me it’s your 2nd amendment right. It’s not. The 2nd amendment is about being part of a well regulated militia. If you want to be a real member of the militia then join the National Guard, Army Reserve, Marine Reserve or sign up for the regulars. Visit your local recruiter for details. Serve your country not yourself. You’ll get great training and maybe some marketable skills too.

I spent five years in the United States Naval Reserve. I have fond memories of service to the United States of America. Fortunately I never experienced combat nonetheless I took the same oath of enlistment as those who did see action. Volunteering to put your ass in harms way is not something to be taken lightly. One of the greatest things I learned was how to be part of a team. Working with others for the common good is something everyone needs in their life. Moving away from parochial views and seeing a wider world was a great experience. It’s been four decades since I wore navy blues but it’s an experience I will never forget.

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