Archive for June, 2010

I belong to an American Baptist church.  When we’re not poking fun at ourselves, we sometimes target the Southern Baptists.  It’s all in good fun and no lightning has struck us yet.

One of the perceptions many people have of conservative Christians—whether true or not—is of an indifference to problems of pollution or climate change.  Some of this is earned, as parking lots of evangelical and fundamentalist churches have a higher percentage of SUV’s than the more liberal churches; and certain prominent church leaders deny any human involvement in global warming. (!?!)  While this denial may or may not be politically motivated (Big Oil contributes big to the Republican Party and its socially conservative platform) the reason often stated or implied is that God is sovereign, and that man can do nothing to alter God’s plan for creation.  Some imply that attempting to do so would be an act of pride, works-righteousness, idolatry, and yada-yada-yada (and besides, it’s on the liberal agenda).  

And so, I’m thrilled that one of the most conservative Christian denominations in the United States has passed the following resolution concerning the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.  Some of it may even seem in alliance with, well, the “liberal agenda” in its wording, such as:  “Our God-given dominion over the creation is not unlimited, as though we were gods and not creatures, so therefore, all persons and all industries are then accountable to higher standards than to profit alone.”

But this is not just liberal; it’s also how conservatives should act.    

Good on you, cousins.  Y’all make us proud.


Resolution 4. On The Gulf Of Mexico Catastrophe

WHEREAS, On April 20, 2010, the deadly explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico resulted in the deaths of eleven workers and touched off an underwater gusher of oil that has spewed millions of gallons of crude petroleum into the waters of the Gulf; and WHEREAS, This crisis is described already as the largest environmental calamity in American history; and

WHEREAS, The oil spilling from the ocean’s floor now poses a dire and immediate threat to the coastlands and inland estuaries, marshes, and waterways of the Gulf Coast of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida, and to the ecosystems of birds, shrimp, oysters, fish, and other life-forms; and

WHEREAS, Due to the symbiotic relationship between the Gulf of Mexico and the hardworking residents of the Gulf Coast, this crisis jeopardizes an entire way of life for communities, with vast economic, social, cultural, familial, and spiritual consequences; and

WHEREAS, Holy Scripture tells us “the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof” (Psalm 24:1, KJV), and that God’s wisdom and glory is seen in the teeming of life in the seas (Psalm 104:25); and

WHEREAS, God has designed us with a dependence on the natural resources around us and has assigned us a dominion of stewardship and protection of those resources for future generations (Genesis 2:7-15); and

WHEREAS, Our God-given dominion over the creation is not unlimited, as though we were gods and not creatures, so therefore, all persons and all industries are then accountable to higher standards than to profit alone; and

WHEREAS, The Scripture teaches both love of neighbor for those who are suffering (Mark 12:31; Luke 10:25-37; Romans 13:8-10; Galatians 5:14) and accountability for those whose actions harm the vulnerable (Exodus 21:33-22:15; Luke 19:8; Romans 13:1-7); now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Orlando, Florida, June 15-16, 2010, lament the deaths of the eleven oil rig workers and pray for their families; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we call on Southern Baptist churches and other Christians to pray for the end of this catastrophe and for the homes, lives, cultures, and livelihoods of those in the Gulf Coast region; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we call on the governing authorities to act determinatively and with undeterred resolve to end this crisis; to fortify our coastal defenses; to ensure full corporate accountability for damages, clean-up, and restoration; to ensure that government and private industry are not again caught without planning for such possibilities; and to promote future energy policies based on prudence, conservation, accountability, and safety; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we encourage persons, communities, industries, and governments to work together to find ways to lessen the potentiality of such tragic accidents and of such devastating pollution in order that we may protect what God loves and safeguard the lives, livelihoods, health, and well-being of our neighbors and of future generations; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we call on Southern Baptists to be ready to assist the communities and churches of the Gulf Coast through the clean-up process with the same generosity of spirit that Southern Baptists exhibited after Hurricane Katrina of 2005; and be it finally

RESOLVED, That we acknowledge that this tragedy should remind us to testify to the love of God in His creation and to the hope, through the blood of Christ, of a fully restored creation in which the reign of God is seen “on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).

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Ah, summertime…and the livin’ is easy… No firewood to hustle, no ice to pound off the side of the boat…if you could even row out to her.

The height of the sun at noon is now 69.5 degrees overhead at this latitude (44 north).  That’s using the formula, 90 degrees minus local latitude, plus 23.5 degrees for the earth at full tilt (or full tilt boogie, a Joplinism.  More on her later).   The sun is more than three times its height at the winter solstice (90 minus 44 minus the tilt)!

Ah, summertime. 

Or, as Janis would say, “Sssssummertiiiiiiime, chiiiild, you’re livin’ eeeasy!  Fish are…, fish are jumpin’ now-ow-ow, hey the cotton, oh, the cotton is hiiiiiiiiigh.”

I was on a trip with a bunch of guys from our church a few years back, and we pulled up at a stoplight next to a Mercedes.  Spontaneously, some of us started singing, “LORD! Won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz!  My friends all drive Porsches; I must make amends!”

This led to a discussion about Janis Joplin and probably to whether she was a genius or merely on drugs.  One of the guys said that he never really appreciated her style because it just sounded like she was screaming.

“Oh, but she screamed exquisitely,” I said, “Nobody could scream like Janis.”  (My friend is a Baptist pastor.  It’s in his job description not to like her music.)

Janis took this lullaby from Porgy and Bess and transformed it into an apocalyptic struggle between the forces of God and the forces of evil—a cry of despair from Dante’s lowest circles of hell—a kozmic clash of the Titans, and she would even spell it that way (as in Kozmic Blues).  Notice the electric guitar giving a surreal quality too—almost like a calliope at a carnival.  Where did that idea come from? 

Normally I don’t like these mixing genres; I hated it when Dolly Parton took Pete Seeger’s “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?”—one of the songs that most contributed to ending the Vietnam War and possibly taking down Johnson and Nixon—and turned it into a purty little song about flowers.  Makes me convulse when I hear Dolly do that.

Janis, on the other hand, pulled it off.  Or at least I think she did, and fine art is whatever I like. 

Enjoy the summer, whether you like this video or not.  And wear a hat.  The sun will get you more than three times as fast. 

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Fathers’ Day

It’s my day, it’s my blog, and I’m gonna post what photos I want to. 

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Then they began to climb and they were going to the East it seemed, and then it darkened and they were in a storm, the rain so thick it seemed like flying through a waterfall, and then they were out and Compie turned his head and grinned and pointed and there, ahead, all he could see, as wide as all the world, great, high, and unbelievably white in the sun, was the square top of Kilimanjaro. And then he knew that there was where he was going.” —from The Snows of Kilimanjaro

Often I sit by the kitchen window with a cup of coffee and read a story by Ernest Hemingway, to remind myself that good short-story writing still exists—at least it did until 1961.  His sparse, direct style, known for what he left out as much as for what he included, holds my interest.  Some consider his work manly–whatever that means–and unlike the wordy, flowery prose of William Faulkner.  Either you like Faulkner or you like Hemingway, and for good reason:  they didn’t like each other; each gossiped in print about the other’s writing. 

Hemingway wrote about strong topics like death, or broken relationships.  His stories often included alcohol, or guns.  “You do know that he committed suicide?” my wife has said to me, more than once. 

My wife is a Faulkner fan.

The above quote from The Snows of Kilimanjaro can be found on the last page of the story, and describes the fevered delirium of a dying man in a cot, in a tent, stranded in the wilderness of Africa.  It takes a second reading of the page to discover when reality ends and when his death begins.  But in his mind it’s a happy ending as the rain and the snows cool his fever.

This diversion halfway around the world is brought to you on behalf of Daughter Number One, who is presently in Africa to visit two friends in the Peace Corps.  After an initial day with Rachel in Ethiopia (where the coffee is terrific, she said), she flew off to Jenny Beth in Tanzania and to rendezvous with a third friend, Natalie.  She’ll return to Ethiopia and stay with Rachel for a couple of weeks before coming home.  Here’s the full text of an e-mail from a week ago, and we haven’t heard a word since:

Subject line:  “I’m in Tanzania with Jenny Beth and Natalie.” 

Body of e-mail:  “That’s all.  The coffee isn’t as good here.  We are at Lake Victoria and will go to Kilimanjaro soon!”

When you get back to an internet cafe, tell me if the top is really square, Marya. 

Love, Daddy.

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What’s in a name? That which we call a rose

By any other name would smell as sweet. [Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet]

Our number three daughter Heather is home from her first year of college and has been lobstering with me for her summer job.  This morning, before she came down onto the dock, she picked a wild rose and put it in her hair.  If you’ve never smelled rosa rugosa along the seashore you may not understand the sweet smell that Juliet referred to (although she wasn’t really talking about roses) because much of the scent has been bred out of the commercial varieties. 

“Alas,” as Juliet might have said.

The rose lasted most of the day in Heather’s hair, and I could smell it from time to time, even over the smell of herring in the bait box, or the diesel fumes when we were stern-to the wind.  Pungent, innocent, sweet, yet independent and cutting through all else with an authority of its own.  A smell that we enjoy only seasonally along the beaches of Maine as the bushes open up in pinks, reds and whites before the flowers fall and give way to fruit.

It was a good day on the water and made better by something unexpected.  It had never occurred to me that I could smell a beach rose fifteen miles out at sea.              

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Guernica by Pablo Picasso

I’m trying not to wax political on this blog.  But a poem showed up recently in my in-box that reminded me of Picasso’s painting Guernica, that depicts the bombing of that city during the Spanish Civil War in 1937.

The poem, by fellow Mainer Arnold Greenberg, was written for Passover but shared recently on the occasion of an ongoing event off the coast of Gaza.  Apply it to any event—past, present or future.

by Arnold Greenberg

Even in escape, there’s no escape,
no opening of waters, no Promised Land,
no paradise,  no freedom
if the Sinai that was crossed
so long ago is littered now with bones
crumbling in that sand
and broken hearts are screaming anguished cries
and tears from longing eyes
roll down cheeks
looking at the land no longer theirs.

Now, there is no grassy hill to sit on in the setting sun
feeling chosen while the un-chosen run
through burning streets —
fathers with their sons dying in their arms,
mothers weeping on their knees,
neighbors dashing from the doorways
as their homes explode.

And when I taste the bitter herb
my tongue is bitter with this shame
and I cannot look away and celebrate.
I cannot taste the wine
or the sweetness of the honey
when those in Palestine
cannot sip and taste with me
the joy of liberation.

Perhaps, a year will come
when I can click my glass and drink
to freedom and celebrate
in song and prayer, at last,
for what we couldn’t share
for all these years.

Perhaps a time will come
when borders won’t exist
and walls come tumbling down
again like Jericho and no one lives
in shadows while others live in light–
until then, laughter cannot hide this sadness.

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And then there’s this tactic. 

Are there underwater oil plumes or not?   

Is the earth round?  Like a ball?

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Soos gave me this cartoon years ago. 

If you have a dog and/or a cat, you’ll understand perfectly; and in my case simply change the names Roscoe and Muffin to Gracie and Little Sal, and this comes right home. 

If you don’t have pets, you can apply it to any data:  theology, as in the cartoon; or history; or politics; or media spin from any current event. 

Like the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico for example.  Not saying that you have to.  Just a f’rinstance.  

Point:  The facts never speak for themselves.  They need to be interpreted.  

Are there underwater oil plumes or not?  Are they catastrophic?  Are the detergent/dispersants harmful or beneficial?  Why is there so much disagreement on this? 

Roscoe and Muffin have exactly the same data and arrive at absolutely different conclusions.  And they don’t even appear to have axes to grind or any hidden agenda.   

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