Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Go Arkansas! Take up the Religious Freedom Fight!

Even as Indiana is being bullied by the pro-homosexual forces, Arkansas is apparently about to join the fray.

The Arkansas legislature has passed a religious freedom law similar to the one in Indiana that has unleashed ignorant, ill-informed attacks against Indiana.

If the law is signed into law, Arkansas will be yet another state taking a stand for the rights of religious people.

Governor Huckabee is right - the coastal states and governments and elites just don't get it when it comes to the values of most of the country.

And it's about time that someone fights back against the bullies who have been trying to force their disordered ideas on people of faith - the kind of bullying that has forced people out of business.

ADDED: The governor of Arkansas is also apparently buckling. Cue "Chicken Dance" music.

Pax et bonum

The Theater of the Avoid

As usual when I have piles of work to do - in this case, essays to grade - my mind turns to my own writing projects.

This week, it's plays.

I started thinking about the Father/Son/Bird play I scribbled notes for a few years back, but never finished. Then there are a series of short pieces that jumped into my head just this week - the Tea Kettle, The Mirror, The Bickering Couple, The Football Toss. Ooo - I could use video. Maybe draw the audience in - how far? Would it work in a dinner theater setting?

Of course, I recognize it all as a way to avoid grading.


Back to the papers. 

Pax et bonum

Monday, March 30, 2015

Anti-religion forces target Indiana - Updated

There's all sort of hoopla over the new religious freedom law in Indiana. The usual suspects are out claiming it discriminates against homosexuals, and are calling for boycotts and protests.

Apparently, few of these folks have actually read the "Religious Freedom Restoration Act." Or are aware that such laws exist in more than 20 states. Or that the law mirrors one passed by a Democratic Congress and signed by President Bill Clinton.

But we are dealing with emotion, not reason here.

The key to the law is that there must be an undue "burden" placed on the person for it to go into effect - burdens that courts must rule on on a case-by-case basis. In more than 20 years of such cases, there are guidelines out there already. And those precedents make it difficult to discriminate under normal circumstances because the person claiming the religious out must prove a true burden.

Take the case of a religious baker, for example. If a woman comes in and is wearing a button that says "Lesbian," the baker could not just refuse to sell her a dozen cookies claiming it's a "burden" to sell to her. The law would not uphold that, as simply selling cookies to an individual under normal circumstances does not create a burden.

Now if that same woman came in and requested a wedding cake for her homosexual marriage ceremony, the law would allow the baker to say no, as taking part in a ceremony that clearly goes against the baker's religious beliefs/teachings would create an unnecessary burden.

So, refusing to serve homosexuals under normal circumstances would still be considered discrimination, but refusing to take part in an activity that goes against one's faith would be allowed.

As I said, these cases would be judged on a case-by-case basis. But it is clearly not a law that allows random discrimination.

And the service provider would have to prove it is a burden.

Now there are other areas where such an argument might not hold up.

Take a bed and breakfast. If a homosexual couple comes in and says they want to stay in one of your rooms, and you say no on religious grounds, but you do allow unmarried couples to rent the same rooms, your claim may not hold up. After all, fornication is a sin too, and it would be hard to argue you uphold your faith's teachings in one area but not another.

But again, this is not about reason or logic. It's about emotion and bullying.

The pro-homosexual side wants nothing less than to force people to accept them and their agenda.

Even if it means violating the Constitution and others' religious liberties.

UPDATE: The Democrats are jumping on the anti-religion bandwagon - but after the 2012 National Convention, what could we expect? Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren and NY Governor Andrew Cuomo have joined the ranks of those calling for no official travel to Indiana. Predictable.

Meanwhile, Indiana Governor Pence is waffling under pressure from businesses and the pro-homosexual lobby known as the mainstream media. After all, the bottom line is the bottom line, right?

Pax et bonum

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Jane Austen and Me

I have a confession to make.

I am not a fan of Jane Austen's novels.

Yes, I know she is a skilled writer. I appreciate her humor and satire. I've even taught Pride and Prejudice.

And as a veteran English teacher with an MA in English Literature, I should like her work.

But frankly, if I were not teaching it I would not be going out of my way to read her fiction.

Her focus on social conventions and situations, and on marriage just don't interest me.

I'm a guy.

Now I do like some romances - though with a dash of gothic. I like Jane Eyre. I like Rebecca. I enjoyed reading them.

But the whole Darcy and Elizabeth business - eh.

I first encountered Austen when I was a teen and college student. People told me I HAD to read her, that she was one of the great English novelists. So I tried Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility. I couldn't finish them.

I never got through Pride and Prejudice until I had to teach it. I was older, I could better see what she was doing, but if I didn't have to read it I wouldn't have finished it even then. I've now read it three times, and skimmed it a couple times more.

Still not my cup of tea.

There are other "greats" I was told I had to read, and I did out of duty, got why they are so highly regarded, but still don't particularly like. Faulkner. Hemingway. Tolstoy. Eliot.

Sorry. I'll take Steinbeck, Dostoyevsky, and Dickens over them any day.

And there are many people whom I respect who love Austen - my oldest daughter, for example. I mean no disrespect toward them or the many other Austen fans out there. Enjoy her - just don't expect me to do so.

So I will continue to teach Austen because she is in the curriculum.

I'll even reread her.

Of course, the next version of her I might try is Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

Now that one might hold my attention.

Pax et bonum

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Saint Gilbert Chesterton

There is in The Atlantic a wonderful piece ("A Most Unlikely Saint") about the effort to have G. K. Chesterton declared a saint. It begins:

If the Catholic Church makes G. K. Chesterton a saint—as an influential group of Catholics is proposing it should—the story of his enormous coffin may become rather significant. Symbolic, even parabolic. Chesterton’s coffin was too huge, you see, to be carried down the stairs of his house in Beaconsfield, its occupant being legendarily overweight at the time of his death, in 1936. So it went out a second-floor window. Very Chestertonian: gravity, meet levity. Hagiographers might pursue the biblical resonance here, citing the Gospel passages in which a paralyzed man, unable to penetrate the crowds surrounding the house in Capernaum where Jesus was staying, is lowered in through a hole in the roof. Or they might simply declare that Gilbert Keith Chesterton’s was a spirit too large to go out through the conventional narrow door of death—that it had to be received, as it were, directly into the sky.

It's a well-written piece, a good introduction to Chesterton and the sainthood cause for those who were not aware of him or it. Even for those of us who were familiar, well worth reading.

Pax et bonum

Sunday, March 22, 2015

I'd rather not hear it

I was coming out of the supermarket yesterday when a vehicle pulled up and waited to turn.

Despite the closed windows, loud music was belting out from the vehicle. Music with offensive lyrics. Pouring over me and the families, with children, walking in and out of the store.

This sort of thing has happened before. Vehicles blaring down the street. Vehicles blasting away at red lights and stops signs.

I believe people have the right to listen to music of their choice.

I also believe they have no right to force others listen to that music.

Now maybe some of those folks have hearing loss - due to blasting music? - so that's the only way they can hear it. Maybe they are just oblivious to how loud it is. Maybe they don't care. And maybe they don't realize how offensive some of the lyrics are.

Whatever the case, I just don't want to hear it.

Maybe I need to get some good speakers and a few classic music cds in my car.

Pax et bonum

Saturday, March 21, 2015

The support of Franciscan community

Two weeks ago, our Franciscan Fraternity lost one of its long-time members. She had been struggling with illness for many years, was confined to a wheelchair, was on dialysis, had other health issues, and had missed a number of meetings due to her problems. Her loving husband had been her primary caregiver, but he had suffered a mini stroke just a few weeks before her death - I suspect from all the strain he was under.

Her death was sad, but not unexpected, and now she is at peace.

A number of fellow Franciscans gathered at her wake to pray a suggested Franciscan Wake Service. It was a tribute to her, and a sign of support for her husband.

Last night, to my surprise, he was at our Fraternity meeting. It was good to see him there, getting out, participating, receiving some of the emotional and spiritual support he needs at this time.

That's one of the beauties of belonging to a Fraternity. We are in community; we are brothers and sisters growing together, nourishing and supporting each other. Though I have reclusive, hermit-like tendencies, I know I need community as well.

As we left the meeting - which is held in the parish life center (the parish entrusted me with a key to the building so the Franciscans can meet) - my wife commented on the large size of the rectory. It used to house a number of priests. We are down to one priest living there - a hospital chaplain who used to live there moved, and the retired priest who was in residence passed away earlier this year, leaving just our pastor. We both wondered if he is lonely in that big rectory. I said I hope the diocese arranges for another priest to live with him so that he too can have some kind of community, someone to talk to or even just to sit with at dinner. I hope he has some sort of community already with some fellow priests outside the parish.

Maybe I'll invite him to join us for some of our Fraternity meetings.

Pax et bonum

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Bang Bang - one reason why I don't hunt

I grew up in a home with guns. My dad was a hunter, and he had several rifles. My brother and I were taught early on the guns were not toys, and were strictly off limits, so we never ventured into the closet where the rifles were kept.

When we were old enough, we got bb guns. I used to shoot at targets all the time. I got used to the way the bb would fly, and pretty soon regularly hit the cans, printed targets, knots in trees that I aimed at. I saved up my allowance to get more bbs, and begged for money when I didn't have enough.

I remember a carnival came to our town. It had a shooting game, and I saw a pretty knife with a white handle I wanted to win. I also knew that you had to get used to a gun to find out any quirks. I picked out one gun, shot, and missed. Adjusted, shot again, missed again. I looked at the gun closely. The sight was slightly bent -  aha. I compensated, shot again, this time hitting the target. I put up more money and kept shooting and hitting, much to the obvious annoyance of the man behind the counter. I finally achieved the number of hits required to win the knife, and I asked for it, but the man would not give it to me. Now it could be he was legitimately worried about giving a knife to a kid, but I took it as an injustice. I stormed home and waited for my dad. When he got home, I told him everything, and we went back to the carnival. He dickered with the man, and finally I got the knife. It was pretty, but cheap, and after a few months the pretty handle broke. Sigh.

Even though I shot almost every day, I didn't indiscriminately shoot at animals like some other kids I knew. I recognized birds, squirrels, cats and dogs were not legitimate targets to shoot at just for the fun of it. And I never developed into a hunter like my dad, or like my brother. I trace that fact to one incident.

For some reason, I got it into my head that I wanted a pet bird. Rather than buy one, though, I got the foolish notion that I could capture a wild bird - no thought about how unfair it would be to stick a wild bird into a cage.

I decided the best way to get a bird was to wing one, and then catch it. So I took my bb gun into a nearby wooded area. I searched and tracked birds; most flew away before I could get off a shot. But then one bird lingered on a branch high up in a tree. I aimed, fired, and the bird dropped. Success!

I ran over to where the bird had fallen and picked it up. The tiny bird was alive, but barely. I held it in my hand, and it move a little. Blood trickled out of its beak. Then it went limp.

I stared at the dead bird in my hand. I had killed it - a beautiful, innocent creature - just because of my selfish desires and the stupid notion that I could just wing it and not kill it. I realized I had unnecessarily caused it pain.

I buried the bird. I cried.

I  don't condemn those who hunt for food. My dad used to donate whatever he killed (and didn't eat) to programs that proved food for the poor. As a vegetarian, I don't have that excuse, anyway. (And my incident with the bird predated by many years my decision to become a vegetarian.) Nor do I condemn gun ownership.

But since that foolish, cruel act, I ceased shooting on a regular basis, and I've never since aimed a gun at another living thing.

Pax et bonum

Friday, March 13, 2015

Did we ever Meat?


So it's Friday, during Lent.


And as a good Catholic boy, I don't eat meat on Fridays during Lent.

Kielbasa. Haggis. Bratwurst.

Of course, being a vegetarian, I don't eat meat on any Friday. Or any other day for that matter.

Ham. Italian Sausage. Bologna. Jerky (various).

I wasn't always a vegetarian. When I was a child I ate meat regularly. Mom prepared meat with every dinner -  except on Fridays.

Meat loaf. Hot dogs. Turkey. Pot Roast. Lamb chops.

I actually used to like some of them. (See "salami.") (Oh, and pepperoni.)

Pork chops. Hamburger. Meatballs. Veal. Chicken pot pie.

I used to hate steak, though. It was part of the Sunday ritual. Dad, who was a salesman and was often away from home the rest of the week, would grill steak on Sundays. It was important to him. It was personal. It was mandatory. Eat grilled steak. Maybe I would have liked it under other circumstances, but being forced to eat it, even when I said I didn't want any, left a bad taste (so to speak).

Roast beef. Chicken breasts. Beef stew. Sloppy Joes. Spam. (Oh, yeah, add that one to the parenthetical list, many times, with a dash of Monty Python.)

Anyway, that was then. Now there is no meat. So Fridays during Lent are like Mondays during Advent, or Wednesdays during Ordinary Time.

But can you write about meat on a Friday during Lent?

Something to chew on.

Pax et bonum

Thursday, March 5, 2015

No Girl Scout cookies for me (Planned Parenthood ties)

Two of my daughters were Girl Scouts. I used to take them to meetings, and joined them for Christmas caroling every year.  

And bought lots of cookies. Samoas. Thin Mints.

But the girls have grown up and are no part of the Scouts. But even if they were still young, I would no longer buy the cookies.

The Girls Scouts on a national level are too intertwined with Planned Parenthood.

Even though some of the local affiliates may have no direct ties to the nation's leading provider of and advocate for abortion, and purveyor of sexual misinformation, I will have nothing to do with them.

I need to go on a diet anyway.

As for everyone else - don't buy the Girl Scout cookies.

Pax et bonum