March 31, 2008

Put me down as one who has been thoroughly disgusted by the various conservative blogs and cable network commentators who have zeroed in on Barack Obama’s church pastor in their own pathetic attempt to associate the views of one human being with another’s. You know – the old “guilt by association” routine.

Let me first say that I don’t agree with much of anything the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the pastor of Obama’s church, has to say, but, as outrageous as some of his comments might have been, I’m of the view that it is plain near outrageous (and, in my view, not a little bit racist) for any white man to impose his own world view on any black man’s. It may be true that we are a nation of immigrants, but the fact is that, like it or not, no matter how hard white people may have had it in America, no one can truly appreciate the black experience, in any way or manner it is lived it in 21st century America; and those who use and have used this plantation mentality to criticize Barack Obama. Blame slavery, racism, or (as I do) generations of government-enforced poverty, but the fact is, the black experience is unique within the American Experience.

Obama two weeks ago faced down his critics, and, in my view, he did it magnificently. And let me tell you folks, I’m now thinking the witch is finally toast.

Mark it down today, ladies and gentlemen, his speech on March 18 became the day Barack Obama became a statesman, not simply a presidential candidate. And a uniter more than Hillary Clinton could ever dream of being. For what he did (in my view) was not just put his critics to shame, but, more importantly, steal the momentum away from Hillary!, and in a way that will make it very difficult for her to match.

Larkin from Wizbang Politics had it about right, I think:

Those who think Obama isn’t tough or shrewd enough to handle Hillary Clinton have another thing coming. If you study Obama’s political career you would know that he can play hardball with the best of them. At the beginning of this debate about Florida and Michigan the most important outcome for Obama was to make sure the previous results were invalidated. He has succeeded at that. The second most important objective was to avoid re-votes that Hillary could win in a big way and that would allow her to close the delegate gap and claim momentum was on her side. Now, it appears he is close to accomplishing that. He’s done it all within the rules that have always been on his side in this conflict.

Hillary had virtually no chance of closing the pledged delegate gap before all this, but now she really has no chance. The delegates in the remaining races will split close to 50-50 and Obama will retain his lead of around 100. Hillary has thrown the kitchen sink at Obama, but he continues to roll up the delegates and extend his lead. I don’t know how much longer the Clinton campaign will struggle on but it’s clear that they have virtually no chance to stop Obama now.

Maybe I’m jaded in this kind of thing, but I personally think Barack knocked it out of the park that day in his speech. Hillary! and all her cohorts in – believe it or not – both the Democratic establishment and the conservative Republican blogsphere and media are now gonna have to reckon with the fact that today, Obama clearly set himself as the de facto Democratic nominee for President. They can whine and complain about jeremiah Wright all they want, but Wright isn’t running for President, Obama is. Heaven help us all if we should be judged by everyone we have ever come in contact with. As Jesus said, let he who is without hsin cast the first stone, or, in another way, people in glass houses shouldn’t be carelessly casting rocks about.

And John McCain, as much as I respect him and would definitely consider voting for him, better understand the rival he will have in the race for the White House.

And Hillary! is now slowly disappearing into his rear-view mirror.

Obama is speaking my language – the language of unity and facing squarely this nation’s racist past – and he’s very close to having my vote.

Filed in: Politics & World Events by The Great White Shank at 01:56 | Comments (0)
March 30, 2008

“Repent ye; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand…” — Matthew 4:1

“These twelve Jesus sent forth, and charged them, saying, Go not into any way of the Gentiles, and enter not into any city of the Samaritans: but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as ye go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand’. — Matthew 10:5-7

“Where people receive the Truth, the Kingdom is near unto them.” — John 4:23

“He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” — Matthew 11:15

So there I was the other night, in the midst of yet another one of those miserable “dark nights of the soul”, those times in a person’s faith journey where, no matter how hard you try, God’s presence seems so remote as to leave one in utter despair at the incredible sense of aloneness and abandonment felt. Having gone through this kind of thing numerous times in my past, I knew this was one of those things you simply have to be patient about and work through, having faith that God in His own way is purifying you for even greater challenges to come.

For the past week, I had been reading Robin Griffith-Jones’ “The Four Witnesses” a second time, and, as with the first time nearly a decade ago, I really couldn’t get into it and understand the point the writers of those magnificent works we call the Gospels were trying to get across. I’ll admit, I was feeling extremely low about myself and the whole resumption of my faith journey. I was doubting myself and, more importantly, doubting God.

During the season of Lent, I had been praying to the Blessed Virgin for guidance in helping me sort through all the conflicted feelings I have been feeling about my drift towards Roman Catholicism, and earlier that night had come upon a program on EWTN about Sister Faustina, a 20th century Polish nun and mystic of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy currently being considered for sainthood in the Roman Catholic Church. Laying in bed frustrated after being unable to pray my evening office, I prayed aloud to Sr. Faustina for guidance, whining (if I do say so myself) about yet another hurdle in my faith journey and my general lack of confidence, wisdom, and understanding about God and Christ – you know, where my faith journey fit in the whole enchilada.

I’ll admit, there was a part of me that doubted and felt rather silly praying to a Catholic nun – after all, as an Anglican this kind of thing doesn’t exactly come naturally, if you know what I mean. But for some reason, whether it was out of desperation or a sincere desire for guidance from a would-be Saint who apparently knew all about God’s mercy, it was just something that came naturally out of my soul.

I hadn’t really expected anything, I don’t think. But the next day, opening up Griffith-Jones’ book once more, all of a sudden the scales fell out of my eyes and suddenly it all made sense to me. Not from a logical kind of book sense, but from a faith sense, a soul sense, a life sense. And I found my whole understanding of the Gospels changed forever: no more was Jesus’ Second Coming some weird abstract thing that (I guess) could happen at any time but probably wouldn’t (after all, it hadn’t happened in two thousand years, why worry about it now?), but something that had already occurred through his Resurrection and triumph over death. Thus an event in time became like a rock dropped into the sea of human history whose ripples are there to be felt by those with “ears to hear” (Mark 4:9) and “hearing to understand” (Luke 8:10) both today and for eons to come.

You see, through God’s grace I have come to understand that the kingdom of God is not something that will happen tomorrow, or whenever that Doomsday asteroid strikes, or even two thousand years from now. Rather, it is something happening all around us this very moment, as you and I face our own mortalities. It can happen today (“Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and one will be left” — Matthew 24:40), or tomorrow (“Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one will be left” — Matthew 24:41); heck, it can happen the next time you drive through an intersection (“Watch therefore, for you don’t know in what hour your Lord comes.” — Matthew 24:42)! With apologies to my Presbyterian friends, this has nothing to do with the so-called “elect”; rather, it has everything to do with our own mortality. When the apostle writes in 2 Peter, that “with the Lord one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day”, he’s humbling each of us with the knowledge that in the whole grand scheme of things you and I are nothing but “the grass that withers and the flower that fades, while the Word of God stands for ever” (Isaiah 40:6-8).

(If you don’t believe me, look at the various parables Jesus asks His disciples and others to consider throughout the Gospels of Mark, Matthew, and Luke, and consider them from this very point of view – I submit to you, you’ll see them in a whole different light.)

So count me out of all though various thinkings regarding Millennialism; when Jesus said the kingdom of God was at hand, he wasn’t kidding. Think about how the Gospel of Mark (my favorite book in the New Testament, BTW) ends in its traditional fashion (my boldings):

“And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices, that they might come and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, they come to the tomb when the sun was risen. And they were saying among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the tomb? And looking up, they see that the stone is rolled back: for it was exceeding great. And entering into the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, arrayed in a white robe; and they were amazed. And he saith unto them, Be not amazed: ye seek Jesus, the Nazarene, who hath been crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold, the place where they laid him! But go, tell his disciples and Peter, He goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you. And they went out, and fled from the tomb; for trembling and astonishment had come upon them: and they said nothing to any one; for they were afraid.” — Mark 16:1-8

You see, Galilee is the key to all understanding – where the answer and the truth lies. What Mark is saying here is this: you want the truth about Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ? You want to know about the Kingdom of Heaven? Go back to Galilee. In other words, to understand what Mark is saying at the end of his Gospel, you have to go back to the beginning of his Gospel. When Jesus said, “the kingdom of Heaven is at hand”, He was saying that God’s true revelation – I would argue, the very essence of God’s existence – was just around the corner, to be revealed in Galilee following His death on the Cross.

For us then, this “kingdom” is not some remote existential condition waiting to dawn upon humanity in violence somewhere down the road; if we truly believe that, we do so at our souls’ great peril. If we have the courage to look long and hard enough, we’ll see the kingdom in all its glory being revealed down through the centuries and in our own lives like “the dawn on high breaking upon us” (Luke 1:78); through both the first and the second coming of Jesus, that kingdom continues to be revealed through the lives of our family and friends, and strangers we don’t even know.

Make sense? He who has ears, let him hear.

Filed in: Religion & Culture by The Great White Shank at 01:09 | Comments (0)
March 29, 2008

Out here in Phoenix on the syndicated radio sports talk stations they’re giving Tiger Woods a hard time because of his obscenity-laced tirade at a photographer snapping a picture during his backswing last weekend at the Doral. A typical comment from these quasi-jock idiots goes something like this: “Tiger ought to suck it up – hey, when I’m playing with my weekend foursome at the local G.C. people can do whatever they want, it’s not going to effect my swing or game.”

Losers.

The fact of the matter is, Tiger is a professional playing on a pro circuit, and everyone knows from signs posted all over the entrances, spectator etiquette, and common sense that you don’t distract a player while he’s out there doing his job. Joey the Idiot Jock might not care if he’s playing a $20 Nassau, but out on the tours these guys are athletes and fierce competitors playing for serious dinero at a level only a handful of people in the world can. It is a sign of respect and professionalism not to get in their way, and any professional photographer worth his salt ought to know that.

So screw the syndicated talk show hosts and pull the credentials of that photographer jerk for all PGA events this year. If you want to spectate do so, but do it in a way that respects the game and those who are playing it.

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 01:39 | Comments (0)
March 28, 2008

I don’t know about you, but I find this story to be particularly outrageous and offensive. Forget about priests and pastors upholding the teachings of the Christian faith – here’s a woman who wants to toss two thousand years of Christian tradition into the trash bin. Her name is the Rev. Gretta Vosper, and do well to remember her name, for she is both the face and the future of the mainline Protestant churches (my boldings):

She wants salvation redefined to mean new life through removing the causes of suffering in the world. She wants the church to define resurrection as “starting over,” “new chances.” She wants an end to the image of God as an intervening all-powerful authority who must be appeased to avoid divine wrath; rather she would have congregations work together as communities to define God – or god – according to their own worked-out definitions of what is holy and sacred. She wants the eucharist – the symbolic eating and drinking of Jesus’s body and blood to make the congregation part of Jesus’s body – to be instead a symbolic experience of community love.

If this isn’t the ultimate example of a wayward generation’s self-indugent, narcissistic worldview, than nothing is. Don’t like what the Bible says? Don’t read it! Find the Christian understanding of God’s revelation in Jesus Christ and his death on the Cross for humankind’s sinfulness offensive? Change God! It’s so typical of today’s liberal/progressive thinking: if you don’t like the rules by which society has traditionally played, alter the rules so you aren’t pushed or challenged to think any other way than you do. It’s not just pathetic and sad, it’s dangerous as well, for its so-called “ministers” like Ms. Vosper who will be held responsible by God for putting the souls under their care in grave danger.

If you’re a member of a mainline Protestant denomination and want to see the future of where your church is going, well, you’ve now seen it. And if you think that’s impossible, all I can say is take a look at the church you attend this weekend and compare it to what it was just 10-15 years ago. This, my friends, is what you get when you cease to worship Jesus as Lord, Savior, and Redeemer, and instead worship at the altar of diversity, tolerance, and inclusiveness. The barbarians are at the gates; is it any wonder that for many, Rome is looking better and better all the time?

Filed in: Religion & Culture by The Great White Shank at 01:53 | Comments (0)
March 27, 2008

Got this from fellow Goodboy Mike “Vegas” Clark – it’s a good yuck:

———————–

Bob went to a doctor and asked him if he ever laughed at a patient. The Doctor replied “Of course I won’t laugh, I’m a professional. In over twenty years I’ve never laughed at a patient.”

“Okay then,” Bob said, and proceeded to drop his trousers, revealing the tiniest ‘whoo-ha’ the doctor had ever seen.

It couldn’t have been bigger than the size of a AAA battery. Unable to control himself, the doctor started giggling, then fell laughing to the floor. Ten minutes later he was able to struggle to his feet and regain his composure.

“I’m so sorry,” said the doctor. “I really am. I don’t know what came over me. On my honour as a doctor and a gentleman, I promise it won’t happen again. Now, what seems to be the problem?”

“It’s swollen,” Bob replied.

Filed in: Goodboys by The Great White Shank at 09:25 | Comments (0)
March 25, 2008

On Easter Sunday we hit 90 for the first time, and it appears we may do so again tomorrow. I’ve often mentioned that spring is a short season here in the Valley of the Sun – heck it was only a month ago we were in the ’50s and the pool temperature was 48 degrees. But it’s now up to 68, and Tracey was dangling her legs over the side yesterday afternoon. That’s what a succession of 80+-degree days will do fer ya!

Another sure sign of the season: people are already talking about preparing one’s wheels for the fierce onslaught to come.

For right now, however, this is a beautiful time of year to live in Arizona. But the clock is ticking, and summer will soon be here.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:22 | Comments (0)
March 23, 2008

resurrection Happy Easter, everyone!

I’m just back from a marathon – and I do mean marathon Great Vigil of Easter Mass at St. Anne Catholic Church. The Great Vigil of Easter is one of the most ancient, solemn and joyful traditions of the Christian faith, and when done right (as is always done at Boston’s Church of the Advent), it can be an awe-inspiring event to behold. Historically, TGVoE is the first Mass of Easter, and a time the ancient Church welcomed new converts to the faith; today, in churches following the Catholic tradition (whether Catholic nor not) it is a time to make known God’s marvelous works in creation and His covenantal relationship with His people through the Old and New Testaments.

Now, some people might prefer their churches smaller and more intimate (and that might be all well and good at other times during the Church Year), but when it comes to TGVoE, lemme tell ya, bigger is better. The two times I attended TGVoE at “The Advent” (as the Beacon Hill Brahmins of Boston call it), the service was made all the more impressive because of the church’s incredible architecture and how dark they could make it inside during the Old Testament readings and the baptisms done by firelight. While SACC’s bright, airy, modern architecture works well most of the time, for TGVoE, while they made a good show of it, you can’t help but lose something in the translation. And when small parishes try it for the sake of the tradition (as I’ve witnessed it at my old parishes of St. Anne’s Episcopal in Billerica, MA and Christ Episcopal in Elizabethtown, KY) I’m sorry, but it ain’t the same thing, that’s for sure.

But no matter – if one is gonna quibble over the setting you’re missing the whole damned point of the proceedings, aren’t you? So, when it came to tonight’s TGVoE at SACC, there wasn’t any point in comparing theirs to others I’ve witnessed in the past: as Patriots’ coach and head cheater Bill Belichick is wont to say, “it is what it is”. Tonight SACC had over 50 – count ‘em, 50! – baptisms, and around two dozen others received into the Roman Catholic faith – an amazing thing to behold.

What struck me about the way the RCs do their TGVoE (and in this regard, I have to admit, they have it all over the Episcopal Church) was the personal emphasis on baptism that could be experienced by everyone in attendance. Let me explain. For example, in the Episcopal Church, you simply reaffirm your baptismal covenant as part of the general baptism liturgy; at SACC, once the new candidates were baptized, the entire congregation was invited to come up and bless themselves in the new holy water consecrated for Easter. And it was amazing to me to see such a large and diverse crowd of whites, blacks, Hispanics, Asians, Indians, young, old, and in between all processing up to the altar to bless themselves, just one day after witnessing a similar kind of thing – except on Good Friday it was to process up to venerate or kiss the cross. Some pretty cool symmetry at work there, I have to admit.

And the band did play “Jesus Christ Is Risen Today” at the end. A nice touch, and, for me, a welcome traditional ending to a not-so-traditional Holy Week.

So ends the three-day Sacred Triduum – the holiest time of year in the Catholic tradition. This was my first time attempting to be a part of it (while not being able to be a part of it, if you know what I mean…), and I have to admit it wasn’t as positive an experience as I would have liked – I clearly still have some significant spiritual healing to do. Nevertheless, compared to my complete lack of involvement the last few years, better a bittersweet Holy Week experience than a non-experience, to be sure. I’ll post more on this tomorrow or Tuesday perhaps.

Jesus is risen! Alleluia!

A blessed Easter to everyone from the Goodboys and Goodboys Nation weblog!

Filed in: Religion & Culture by The Great White Shank at 00:11 | Comments (0)
March 20, 2008

Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified; Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen

The ultimate example of what today’s culture calls “no pain, no gain”…

Filed in: Religion & Culture by The Great White Shank at 01:35 | Comments (0)
March 19, 2008

Got this e-mail from my folks the other day; thought it was pretty interesting. Did you know that Easter this year is about as early as Easter gets? It’s true – consider:

* Easter this year is: Sunday March 23, 2008

* As you may know, Easter is always the 1st Sunday after the 1st full moon after the Spring Equinox (which is March 20).

* This dating of Easter is based on the lunar calendar that Hebrew people used to identify Passover, which is why it moves around on our Roman calendar.

* Based on the above, Easter can actually be only one day earlier (March 22) but that is pretty rare.

* This year is the earliest Easter any of us will ever see the rest of our lives! And only the most elderly of our population have ever seen it this early (95 years old or above!). And none of us have ever, or will ever, see it a day earlier!

* The next time Easter will be this early (March 23) will be the year 2228 (220 years from now). The last time it was this early was 1913 (so if you’re 95 or older, you are the only ones that were around for that!).

* The next time it will be a day earlier, March 22, will be in the year 2285 (277 years from now). The last time it was on March 22 was 1818. So, no one alive today has or will ever see it any earlier than this year!

So there you go – something to note and to celebrate!

A blessed Holy Week to all.

Filed in: Religion & Culture by The Great White Shank at 01:04 | Comments (0)
March 18, 2008

The last CD in my collection is a catch-all for various tunes from 1970-72. Even though Nixon won the ’72 election in a landslide, the seeds of Watergate and his resignation (generally considered, BTW, to be the “end” of the ’60s, just as JFK’s assassination in 1963 is considered to be the “start” of them) have been planted; Jimi, Janis, and Jim are all dead within months of each other, and while the music is still great, it only echoes a time now past.

1. Canned Heat – Let’s Work Together
2. The Doors – Ship Of Fools
3. The Doors – Land Ho!
4. Blues Image – Ride, Captain, Ride
5. The Moody Blues – Question
6. The Monkees – The Girl I Knew Somewhere
7. Janis Joplin – Me and Bobby McGee
8. The Doors – L.A. Woman
9. Vanity Faire – Hitchin’ A Ride
10. Bread – Make It With You
11. The Doors – Hyacinth House
12. Rolling Stones – Brown Sugar
13. Alive And Kickin’ – Tighter, Tighter
14. The Doors – Riders On The Storm
15. Creedence Clearwater Revival – Have You Ever Seen The Rain?
16. Michael Nesmith – Joanne
17. Bee Gees – How Can You Mend A Broken Heart?
18. Rolling Stones – Wild Horses
19. B.J. Thomas – Rock And Roll Lullaby

A couple of quick notes – the last three Doors cuts on this collection are from “L.A. Woman”, their final album with Jim Morrison, and, in my view, their finest. If you’re a Doors fan, you simply HAVE to get the 40th anniversary mix of the album; hearing all those songs remixed is like hearing them for the first time.

As for the inclusion of “Rock And Roll Lullaby”, that’s just a personal choice – I still remember hearing it for the first time one Sunday night and the DJ saying that The Beach Boys sang background on it (actually, they didn’t, just Mike Love singing a part); but I remember this song piquing my interest in the group. Hence, this song sort of served as the appetizer to what would become, two years later, an absolute musical feast I would partake of for the rest of my life. So it’s inclusion here kind of closes the door on one era while opening one to another.

Hope you enjoyed the series!

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:58 | Comments (0)

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