Monthly Archives: March 2013

Easterholics

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Some people go to church on Easter Sunday; others go into a sugar rush.  Whatever it takes to get you to say, “God, help me!”

Image courtesy All Nurses.

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Why I Believe in Jesus – But Not Christianity

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Anyone who knows me personally, or through my writings, is often surprised when I say I revere Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.  They’re surprised because I usually keep that quiet.  My faith in Jesus is a private matter – as I think all such convictions should be.  The glaring opulence of the Roman Catholic Church, for example, sours me almost as bad as their overt disrespect for women.  The overt arrogance and verbosity of people like Pat Robertson, Robert Schuller and their ilk literally makes me nauseous.

I know I sound like a Tim Tebow acolyte.  But, I have about as much reverence for sports and entertainment figures as I do politicians and televangelists.  In fact, devoutly religious people usually chew up most of my nerves.  They have the tendency to shove their ideology in my face and think they know what’s best for me.  For as long as I can remember, the faithful have asked me to accompany them to (their) church.  Yes, I appreciate their concern for my well-being, but I don’t need it that badly.  Baptists and Pentecostals are among the most aggressive, but Catholics are not that much better.

In February of 1998, my father’s oldest sister, Amparo, died after an extended illness.  She’d been hospitalized for a month, before her frail body finally gave out.  Her death hit our family hard.  She was one of the strongest people any of us had ever known.  She helped care for me when I was a boy.  In fact, Amparo cared for most everyone else in our family; taking her older brother to cancer treatments in the mid-1980s, for example, because no one else – not even his own wife and adult children – could find the time.  Her burial instructions were straightforward: just throw her in a box, toss it into the ground, say a prayer or two and go on with our lives.  And, that’s just what we did.  There was no long, drawn-out rosary preceding an equally long, drawn-out funeral.  We had a brief service at the mausoleum, a quick internment, and then, we were gone.

When I told one of my closest friends, he was surprised to learn there had been no rosary, as Hispanic Catholics are prone to do.  “Oh, oh,” he moaned ominously.  “I hate to tell you this, but your aunt’s chances of getting into Heaven are slim.”

I became instantly enraged.  “How do you know?!” I screamed at him.  Amparo’s commitment to her family far outweighed the pious proclamations of my friend; someone who actually practiced voodoo for a short time in the 1980s, before reverting back to Catholicism.  That one statement almost ended our long friendship.

But, it’s that sort of self-righteousness – the sense of ‘I-know-what-God-wants-better-than-you’ – that sends me into epileptic fits.  I once worked with a woman who often wore a gold ‘Jesus Loves Me’ pin – while strutting about the office talking behind people’s backs and speaking in a condescending tone to others.  I’m just not one to proselytize.  Thus, it’s a stretch for me to express my personal beliefs about Jesus even in this forum.

There’s really no concrete proof that Jesus was little more than an influential philosopher from what is now Israel.  But, I feel that He was a real person; someone who lived a short life, yet has had a grand impact on the world.  I also believe Jesus has manifested Himself in other forms and in other faiths to a variety of people.  But, they’re just that – beliefs.  I never profess to know for certain who Jesus was or what He plans to do.

Some folks have this vision of Jesus arriving on a gilded chariot, amidst a cacophony of trumpets, and sweeping them up into His arms for eternal safekeeping.  They’re certain they know what Jesus will do – and that they’ll be right there with Him.  These are the same people who’ll be horrified when science discovers the center of the universe – and they’re not it!

Here’s something else I believe: the “Second Coming” means Christ will return to Earth, look around at the mess created by many of His devoted followers, and say, “You know, I had a really good idea about love and harmony 2,000 years ago, and you people just fucked it all up.  BAM!”  And, that’s how the world as we know it will end.

If Jesus should return to Earth anytime soon, I’m certain He won’t make his way to visit Pope Francis.  We won’t see Him having dinner with Mitt Romney or tea with Queen Elizabeth.  No, I’m almost positive – if we do catch a glimpse of Him – he’d be on the streets of places like South Dallas, trying to convince prostitutes life has more to offer than streetwalking.  We’d see Him in the slums of Rio de Janeiro, telling kids not to sniff glue; or in the deserts of the Middle East, ordering angry young men to put down their rocket launchers.  He might even show up at an atheists’ convention – if they have such things.  Wherever He’ll be, He won’t be cavorting with the faithful – the so-called “Chosen Ones.”  No, He’d be with the lost souls; the “Forgotten Ones”; the folks the rest of allegedly civilized society declares unworthy and unsaved.

On this Easter Sunday, I only wish for a few simple things – like a few more years with my parents and my dog; to get my novel published; to live as long and healthy of a life as I can.  Yes, I wish for peace on Earth and for the blind to see.  But, those are such grand aspirations.  I can’t save the world alone.  Neither can any one person.  Yes, it may seem strange to many, but I don’t care.  I have little respect for a religion called Christianity, or most other religions for that matter.  But, I still have faith in someone named Jesus.

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Happy Easter!

hauta

Buona Pasqua

Cásca sásta

Feliz Páscoa

Feliz Pascua

Frohe Ostern

Joyeuses Pâques

Vrolijk Pasen

Καλό Πάσχα

 

Image courtesy Mailan Mietteitä.

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Pig on a Stick

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Sometimes you have to do whatever it takes to keep the masses interested.  J&D’s Foods has come out with a bacon-flavored condom, a latex prophylactic that literally looks like a slab of bacon and smells like one, too.  Considering that sex produces a variety of smells – with or without condoms – this might be an improvement on one of humanity’s favorite past times.  J&D co-founder Justin Esch says the company worked with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to ensure the condom met with safety regulations.

“The FDA is involved and there’s a lot of testing that goes on,” said Esch.  “We could have made novelty condoms, but really, what fun is that?”

Yes, of course, and what fool wouldn’t take bacon-flavored condoms seriously?  Fortunately (or maybe not), the condoms just smell like bacon, but don’t feel like it.  I mean, if you prefer your bacon extra-crispy, that might be a challenge.

This whole thing might speak to America’s obsession with greasy foods, but I’m quite certain a lot more men will suddenly want to practice safe sex.  I just wish I’d known about the testing phase, so I could have volunteered.  I’m always looking for a free meal!

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Leo Belgicus: Art of the Lion

These aren’t your typical Rand McNally maps.  “Leo Belgicus” is Latin for “Dutch Maps;” unique characterizations of the Low Countries: Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.  Depicting Europe’s northwestern coastal regions as a lion was first introduced in 1583 by Michael Eitzinger (also Aitzinger or van Aitzing), a cartographer and historian in the services of Emperors Ferdinand II and Maximilian II.  Eitzinger is also known for his novel De Leone Belgico, a history of the Eighty Years’ War, when the Netherlands fought for independence from Spain.  He may have developed the Leo Belgicus concept from the lion figure that adorned many of the coats of arms of Dutch nobility.  How a lion came to represent the Low Countries is a mystery; considering the animals aren’t exactly indigenous to Europe.  I can only surmise it’s because of the power and regal nature that lions exude.  Regardless of Eitzinger’s intent, these are fascinating works of medieval art.

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Comitatus Hollandiæ denuo forma Leonis

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In Memoriam – Anthony Lewis, 1927 – 2013

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I should have mentioned this earlier, but author and journalist Anthony Lewis died this past Monday, March 25.  He was just two days shy of his 86th birthday.  Lewis is best known – and perhaps most admired – for his book Gideon’s Trumpet, but he was also a noted liberal academic; a purveyor of free speech and civil rights.  Gideon’s Trumpet recounts the U.S. Supreme Court case of Gideon v. Wainwright, in which Clarence Earl Gideon, a petty thief in Florida, fought for legal representation.  The battle resulted in one of the most important and extraordinary litigious decisions of the 20th century.

It was that kind of commitment to personal freedom, no matter what one’s status in life might be, that drove Lewis’ passion.  Gideon’s victory, Lewis wrote, “shows that even the poorest and least powerful of men – a convict with not even a friend to visit him in prison – can take his cause to the highest court in the land and bring about a fundamental change in the law.”

Lewis’ tenacious work produced two Pulitzer Prize awards.  He won his first in 1955 at the age of 28 for articles he published in the Washington Daily about the U.S. Navy’s relentless charges of communist activity against a civilian employee, Abraham Chasanow.  An unnamed informant had accused Chasanow of being a radical communist sympathizer; a charge that, in post-World War II America, was a veritable death sentence for many people.  Lewis’ articles culminated in an apology to Chasanow by the Navy and his reinstatement to his previous job.  Lewis won his second Pulitzer in 1963 for reporting on the Supreme Court.

“A final argument for broad freedom of expression is its effect on the character of individuals in a society,” Lewis wrote in his 2007 book Freedom for the Thought that We Hate: A Biography of the First Amendment.  “Citizens in a free society must have courage – the courage to hear not only unwelcome political speech but novel and shocking ideas in science and the arts.”

In 2001, he received the Presidential Citizens Medal from President Bill Clinton.  The citation read, in part, that Lewis “has set the highest standard of journalistic ethics and excellence” and called him a “staunch defender of freedom of speech, individual rights, and the rule of law.”

I think it’s rather curious he received that honor just days before George W. Bush took office as President.  Bush’s administration would become the modern epitome of corruption, secrecy and irresponsibility.  As a writer, I understand and appreciate the value of free speech.  From that extends every other basic human right that allows people to live a full life in a truly democratic society.  Lewis left a strong legacy of commitment to the world as a whole, and it’s the duty of us in the literary and blogging worlds to uphold it.

Lewis leaves his wife, Margaret H. Marshall, former chief justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court and three children by a first marriage.  The funeral will be private.

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When Things Change

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The Oatmeal

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