Monday, March 26, 2007

What a Horse!

Ok, this was just cool. Dressage is an elegant, ancient sport of training horses to do things they don't ordinarily do, except the rare occasional one. Horses are intelligent, sensitive, highly motivated animals who love to play...and that's what this one was doing on this day. Watch all the way to the is amazing.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Sacramentum Caritatis

Most of you know that my doctoral work is in worship and liturgy. I am always reading the latest research and information about this subject. As has been expected for some time, Benedict XVI has written a response to last year's Synod gathering of Bishops to discuss the role of the Eucharist in the life of the Church.

As Protestants, we make a mistake by ignoring Rome. I certainly would not advocate for us to place ourselves under the authority of the See of Peter...there has been too much history for that to make much sense in the 21st. c. But we must always be striving for Christ's desire that "...they may all be one..." and in doing so, all sides must entertain both the idea that there will have to be concessions made, and that we must start simply. And so, we must read what the other side has to say.

We should take seriously the pastoral and academic gifts of the current Pontiff. While we might disagree with him theologically and ecclesiologically, we cannot deny that he is brilliant; a sensitive Pastor and a skilled theologian and liturgist. This latest writing contains a fascinating summation of Roman Catholic eucharistic theology, and can be instructive for us Protestants as to how to allow the eucharist to become central to our religious lives once again.

I'm going to propose to my professor that I be allowed to write a response to this document as my final project for the semester. Perhaps it will be published. I've attached a link below, it's a long read but, I think, worth it. A friend and colleage even suggested that it might make a good Lenten reflection. I think he's right.

  • Sacramentum Caritatis
  • Saturday, March 10, 2007

    Take me out to the ball game...

    30 days until opening day at Fenway Park.

  • The Boston Red Sox Home Page
  • Rachael Ray and Dunkin' Donuts

    The news that our favourite coffee shop here in New England is going to hire local gal Rachael Ray has caused no small amount of consternation among the populace. The Boston Globe online discussion board about this is one of the longest I've ever seen. (I'm not going to link to's snarkier and meaner than I could imagine being, but if yer wicked smaht you'll figure out how to find it on I expect that some marketing VP's email inbox has burst into flame several times over the past few days. Perhaps this ad campaign will be short lived.

    We're a provincial people, New Englanders. Starbucks has made a good stab at being successful here, but DD still outsells Starbucks 2 to 1. Krispy Kreme didn't make it, mostly because they cooked the books (so to speak) but also because two outside chains trying to compete for local coffee dollars wasn't going to work. Opinions vary about the coffee at DD (too weak, or just right...), at Starbucks (too strong or just right...), about the atmosphere, the food, the corporate atmosphere...(DD isn't so good about having full time workers with benefits...but neither is Starbucks).

    Me, I like Dunkin' Donuts better than just about anything else. Starbucks, Seattle's Best, even Krispy Kreme's coffee always tastes too strong and bitter for me, even the light varieties.

    I'll have a regular, please. (And here, that means cream and sugar.)

    Thursday, March 08, 2007

    Say it ain't so!

    So, my intent to have a nice day lasted until just after lunch, when it was announced that my favourite Dunkin' Donuts coffee chain was going to hire Rachael Ray to be their spokesperson.

    We are not amused.

    It's a nice day.

    I'm just old enough to remember the time before the internet. Or, at least, the time before most of the world had immediate access to it. I've spent this morning catching up on emails, reading the news, listening to WBUR, Facebooking my friends (is it a verb, really?) and generally sitting in the my office at home catching up on the world. It has been pleasant. I have a cat on my lap and a cup of really good coffee. It has become a nice morning ritual...and my day goes better if I have about an hour each morning to sit here, wake up, and get caught up with news, friends and email.

    I've noticed however, that the web can be not very nice. With things like the little videos of the unbelievably stupid things that people do, the vast amount of porn (I'm told...) and untold amounts of just utter crap, the web is really not a very nice place. You have to work a little bit to find nice things on the web. It strikes me that my own 'blog occasionally contributes to the snarkiness and unpleasantness of the web. Everyone now has a vehicle through which they can vent and rant, or a place to demonstrate to the world that the human race is doomed to extinction, one Jackass-style stunt at a time. To be sure, this immediate access to information can only help in some ways...I read blogs and news feeds that keep me informed as to what my Government is up to, something that can only help.

    So today, I am going to try to have a nice day. I hope you have one too. My coffee cup is empty and I am now fully awake. Time to get ready to go to work and spend time with my students.

    Tuesday, March 06, 2007

    Said Sinclair Lewis...

    "...when fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross."

    I've copied the stuff below from another web site. I've seen it across the web and in various emails. It's scary...

    Dr. Lawrence Britt has examined the fascist regimes of Hitler (Germany), Mussolini (Italy), Franco (Spain), Suharto (Indonesia) and several Latin American regimes. Britt found 14 defining characteristics common to each:

    1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism - Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia. Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays.

    2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights - Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of "need." The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, etc.

    3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause - The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial , ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists, etc.

    4. Supremacy of the Military - Even when there are widespread domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers and military service are glamorized.

    5. Rampant Sexism - The governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Divorce, abortion and homosexuality are suppressed and the state is represented as the ultimate guardian of the family institution.

    6. Controlled Mass Media - Sometimes the media is directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media is indirectly controlled by government regulation, or sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in war time, is very common.

    7. Obsession with National Security - Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.

    8. Religion and Government are Intertwined - Governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed
    to the government's policies or actions.

    9. Corporate Power is Protected - The industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite.

    10. Labor Power is Suppressed - Because the organizing power of labor is the only real threat to a fascist government, labor unions are either eliminated entirely, or are severely suppressed.

    11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts - Fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested. Free expression in the arts and letters is openly attacked.

    12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment - Under fascist regimes, the police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism. There is often a national police force with virtually unlimited power in fascist nations.

    13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption - Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders.

    14. Fraudulent Elections - Sometimes elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against or even assassination of opposition candidates, use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district boundaries, and manipulation of the media. Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections.

    Monday, March 05, 2007

    Frederick the Field Mouse

    I added a photo to the sidebar of the cover of my favorite Children's book "Frederick the Field Mouse" by Leo Leonni. Rather than scurry about all summer gathering seeds and grain, Frederick gathers light, and colours, and birdsongs. The other mice are critical. As you can imagine, winter sets in, and its grim. As it wears on and the food runs out, the other field mice turn to him , whereupon he offers back to them the light and warmth of summer, the sound of long silenced birdsongs, and in doing so helps them to get through the dreariest part of winter.

    Ministry is a bit like this, I think. Our society sometimes wonders what use ministers and priests are. We're called, I think, to remind the people around us in the grimmest, darkest parts of their lives that there is light, and music, and beauty, and love. Simplistic? Maybe. But I'm going to spend this summer gathering in the light, listening to nature, and storing up colours.

    There is hope...

    I've found out yesterday that I have been invited to preach a 'neutral pulpit' sermon for a church that is interested in me. The Association Minister for the area pulled off a minor miracle and found a church for me to preach at in just over a day, on a Sunday coming up soon. The covenantal relationship that UCC churches share with one another asks that when churches are searching for a new pastor, the other churches in the area sometimes make their pulpits available for the search committee to hear pastors preach in a 'neutral' where the pastor and committee are unknown. It's not the best system, but it works most of the time. I'll be preaching in a church smaller than the one interested in me, and in a rural rather than an urban setting, but it will be fine. I'm looking forward to it. The pastor of the church where I will be preaching is a gracious man, and was hoping for a Sunday off soon anyway. I am grateful. As part of the service, I'll be giving the first children's sermon I've given in over five years...unless you count my University students as large children!

    Saturday, March 03, 2007

    Dear Mr. President

    (I originally wrote this letter in 2005. It seems that not much has changed. As usual with letters and emails I send to the White House, I had printed my address and phone number at the bottom, just so the Secret Service would not have trouble finding me. )

    Dear Mr. President;

    I want to thank you for making my job so much harder.

    I spent today counseling four students here at Boston University.

    One has had his National Guard unit activated, and will be going to Iraq within two months. He has just started his senior year here at Boston University, and would really liked to have finished his degree. Now, he will be withdrawing from school and flying to Iraq to fight in a war that he does not support. It is likely that he will return maimed, psychologically scarred, or in a box.

    One just found out that her brother was killed in Iraq this week, just a few weeks before he was to come home. His unit had been kept in Iraq for almost a year longer than they were supposed to have been there.

    One just found out that because of the budget cuts that you have proposed, her financial aid package has been drastically cut, and she will be unable to afford to continue studying here at Boston University. She has just started her junior year, just declared her major, and is a brilliant, articulate young woman who now thinks that she will have to finish her college career at a local community college. You, as a Yale graduate, should understand that graduating from Massachusetts Bay Community College will certainly not give her the same opportunities as graduating from Boston University.

    One student came to me so upset about the lies that you and your administration have told, that she is withdrawing from Boston University to attend college in Canada. She spent this weekend with her grandmother and was shocked at how obtuse and complicated the new Medicare prescription drug plan is. She reports that her grandmother has stopped taking pills essential to her health because she can now no longer afford them and can't figure out how to get the new plan to pay for them.

    This was a group of four students on one day here at one University. They are all voters. They are all citizens. They are some of the brightest and best of our young people and through the direct actions that you and your Administration have promoted, they are all now disenfranchised, disillusioned, and disgusted with you, your politics, and the United States Government. It is no wonder that your approval ratings are so low, and lower even still with this age group.

    So you have put me in the position of having to spend time trying to explain to these students why this is happening. How do I explain to these young people that their Government cares more about an illegal war that kills, about federal spending priorities that favor military might over the development of the mind? How do I explain to them that they need to look at the bigger picture about how all of this is eventually going to make America stronger?

    I don't actually expect, Mr. President, that you will see this email, since it is reported in the news that you rarely look at information that does not fit with your world view. I hope you do see this. I want you to know how you are affecting the American people. Do you realize that the profits from just one of the oil companies over the past year would completely wipe out all student loan debt currently owed? Think about how much stronger the economy would be if the brightest and best of our citizens were not paying thousands of dollars every month in student loans? Or, think about how much stronger our economy would be if we did not have to worry about how we were going to care for ourselves and our parents as we got older?

    I will not defend your policies or laws to my students. Your government is an utter failure. You had a surplus going in, now we have a deficit, and defying every logical precept, you continue to cut taxes when we are at war. We were at peace. Now, we have attacked a country that was not a threat, was not involved in 9/11. Your policies are an utter failure. There are people in America today who are more hungry, not less, who are making less money than five years ago, not more, who are worse off now than when you took office and it is all your fault. You can no longer blame any of this on the Democrats, this is all yours.

    So, thank you, Mr. President. I will continue to see students for counseling who will need my services as a direct result of the lies, warfare, budget cuts and disillusionment that you have perpetrated on the American people. As for my students, I pray that they will be safe, will be able to finish college, and will be able to take care of those they love. You should sit with me for an afternoon and listen....