October 17, 2017

Saturday Ramblings: December 3, 2016

b9710351764z-1_20161129162415_000g3j82vpg1-2-0

RAMBLER OF THE WEEK

As far as we know, there is only one person left in this world who was born in the 19th century. On Tuesday, Emma Morano celebrated her 117th birthday. I think that’s worthy of our Rambler of the Week honor, don’t you?

Ms. Morano, the oldest of eight siblings, was born on the 29th of November, 1899 in the Piedmont region of Italy. According to a report at the BBC, she survived an abusive marriage which started with blackmail, the loss of her only son, and a diet which most would describe as anything but balanced.

It was a regime Morano took up as a young woman, after the doctor diagnosed her with anaemia shortly after World War One. For over 90 years, she ate 3 eggs each day, two of them raw, while consuming very few fruits and vegetables. These days, we are told, she has cut down to just two eggs a day along with a few biscuits.

Ms. Morano’s courage in standing up to her abusive husband and the character quality of determination she showed then and throughout her life inspired a musical show that tells the story of her life in prose and dance. The show is being performed in the northern Italian town of Verbania, where she lived for most of her long life.

This amazing woman has not left her two-room flat for 20 years now but she was surrounded by well-wishers on Tuesday who took part in her birthday celebrations. The New York Times reports that at one point during the festivities, she said, “Hey, isn’t there anything to eat here?” Afterwards, she took a nap.

We join them today and say “Buon Compleanno!” to Emma Morano, our Rambler of the Week.

• • •

ADIOS, FIDEL

fidel-posters-slide-m478-articlelarge

On the other hand, one of the world’s most notorious revolutionaries and dictators died this past week. The world bid “Adios” to Fidel Castro, who died this week at age 90. Leftist world leaders joined Raul Castro in a massive ceremony commemorating the late leader.

Millions cheered Fidel Castro on the day he entered Havana. Millions more fled the communist dictator’s repressive police state, leaving behind their possessions, their families, the island they loved and often their very lives. It’s part of the paradox of Castro that many people belonged to both groups.

Few national leaders have inspired such intense loyalty — or such a wrenching feeling of betrayal. Few fired the hearts of the world’s restless youth as Castro did when he was young, and few seemed so irrelevant as Castro when he was old — the last Communist, railing on the empty, decrepit street corner that Cuba became under his rule.

He held a unique place among the world’s leaders of the past century. Others had greater impact or won more respect. But none combined his dynamic personality, his decades in power, his profound effect on his own country and his provocative role in international affairs.

In addition to the comprehensive Miami Herald article linked above, here are a few other places you can go to access information about Fidel Castro.

• • •

CHRISTMAS GOAT AFLAME!

_92717341_ccb701d8-1eee-45d1-8511-b89fb538a9bf

Well, I’ll be Gavlebockened.

Each year, people in the in the Swedish town of Gavle erect giant Christmas goat effigy. Each year, said goat becomes a favorite target of arsonists. Last year, the goat, made out of wood and straw, made it to December 27 before getting torched.

This year, it failed to last 24 hours.

It was put up on Sunday, the first day of Advent, but was burnt down soon after despite extra security measures, reportedly by a man who slipped through security while a guard went to take a bathroom break. The torching of the goat has now happened 35 times in the last 50 years. The goat’s construction and attendant festivities cost about $250,000.

What with the Capra-cursed Cubs winning the World Series this year and all, it’s been a bad second half of the year for goats.

• • •

NATIONWIDE “SECRET SANTA”

screen-shot-2014-12-11-at-2-54-00-pm

I love this story. In New Zealand this year, thousands of people are participating in a “Secret Santa” gift exchange sponsored by country’s postal service.

How do they organize it?

When a person signs up, they submit a Twitter handle along with their information. The Post Office then shares that (and no other personal information) with a person assigned to give them a present. The giver then can read their gift partner’s tweets and try to figure out what he or she might like for a gift.

The gifts get sent to a “Santa Storehouse” run by the New Zealand Post, rather than give out any addresses, and then distributed accordingly. And if people don’t send a gift for the exchange, the gift meant for them will instead be donated to charity.

What a great idea!

• • •

PROUD PAPA BELL

Longtime friend and contributor to iMonk, Michael Bell, sent us this video of his daughter Kaitlyn in a performance of “Inside Out,” from A from Gentlemen’s Guide To Love and Murder.

Excellent job, Kaitlyn! So expressive, and what a beautiful voice.

• • •

COLOSSAL AFRICAN SOLAR FARM

p04hy5kv

Sandrine Ceurstemont writes about a visit to a vast power plant at the door to the Moroccan desert that may help to define the energy future of the world.

She reports:

Hundreds of curved mirrors, each as big as a bus, are ranked in rows covering 1,400,000 sq m (15m sq ft) of desert, an area the size of 200 football fields. The massive complex sits on a sun-blasted site at the foot of the High Atlas mountains, 10km (6 miles) from Ouarzazate – a city nicknamed the door to the desert. With around 330 days of sunshine a year, it’s an ideal location.

As well as meeting domestic needs, Morocco hopes one day to export solar energy to Europe. This is a plant that could help define Africa’s – and the world’s – energy future.

…After many years of false starts, solar power is coming of age as countries in the sun finally embrace their most abundant source of clean energy. The Moroccan site is one of several across Africa and similar plants are being built in the Middle East – in Jordan, Dubai and Saudi Arabia. The falling cost of solar power has made it a viable alternative to oil even in the most oil-rich parts of the world.

…The country plans to generate 14% of its energy from solar by 2020 and by adding other renewable sources like wind and water into the mix, it is aiming to produce 52% of its own energy by 2030.

…The success of these plants in Morocco – and those in South Africa – may encourage other African countries to turn to solar power. South Africa is already one of the world’s top 10 producers of solar power and Rwanda is home to east Africa’s first solar plant, which opened in 2014. Large plants are being planned for Ghana and Uganda.

I read a book once which posited that the truly epochal changes in world history occur when humans move from one dominant form of energy to another. Perhaps we are seeing the early stages of one of those changes, one that will be experienced by our grandchildren and great grandchildren and the generations that follow them.

• • •

QUESTIONS OF THE WEEK

screen-shot-2016-11-09-at-5-49-19-pmWill the Roman Catholic Church split over marriage?

How will Castro’s death affect Cuba’s Christian revival?

What can churches learn from public schools about changes that might make teaching children more effective?

Could Tiger Woods mount a comeback?

Was “Lucy” a tree climber?

What’s so funny about Jewish humor?

Who’s on the American Family Association’s 2016 “Naughty or Nice” list of stores that measures “Christmas friendliness”?

Why is Starbucks always in the center of culture war debates?

• • •

WORD OF THE YEAR 2016

hq720

The Oxford Dictionary announced a couple weeks ago that “post-truth” is its 2016 word of the year.

Post-truth is described as “an adjective defined as ‘relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief’.

Though the word has been around for awhile, it gained increased usage this year through the “Brexit” controversy in the UK and the US presidential elections. “Post-truth politics” is the phrase in which it is heard most often.

• • •

TO TREE OR NOT TO TREE?

1801248_10156163629875538_5421475209813286724_o

We got our (real) Christmas tree put up last weekend and are in the process of decorating it. On Wednesday night we had a “hanging of the greens” service at the church where I’m preaching to put up and trim the tree in the sanctuary.

Edwin and Jennifer Woodruff Tait at Christian History have an article answering the question, “Why Do We have Christmas Trees?”

Not all Christian leaders have looked so kindly at the practice. Take Tertullian, for example:

Let them over whom the fires of hell are imminent, affix to their posts, laurels doomed presently to burn: to them the testimonies of darkness and the omens of their penalties are suitable. You are a light of the world, and a tree ever green. If you have renounced temples, make not your own gate a temple.

Nevertheless, the tree has prevailed. The Taits give a good overview of the history of the Christmas tree, how presents came to be associated with it, and how our family celebrations around the tree today owe a lot to Victorian English traditions.

• • •

DECEMBER MUSIC SPECIAL

16606370332_93440ca497_k

In December on Sat. Ramblings, I want to feature some of my favorite “winter” or “December” songs. Last year I did a post on my December playlist (which I update every year), and I look forward to this season so I can listen to it most every day.

Each week I’ll post one of my favorite songs off that list. Today, one of the most sublime songs Alison Krauss has ever sung — and that’s saying something. Along with Natalie MacMaster on fiddle (and make sure you listen to the end for her magnificent solo), this is “Get Me Through December.”

Comments

  1. the bare trees
    denuded of leaves
    impatient for snow

  2. To tree, or not to tree. That… is NOT the question.

    Natural tree, or artificial? THERE is a question worth considering. 😉

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      Answer on both counts: what the wife wants.

      • Not in MY house. With only the two of us now we have a pathetic little four foot artificial tree. I just got tired of spending $30-$40 on something that is just going to sit and rot in our living room. I am the one who would purchase it, set it up, adorn it with lights, and then reverse the process on January 1! I am DONE with it all! The fake one sets up in 10 minutes and comes already adorned with lights. And best of all it doesn’t DECOMPOSE and leave needles all over the floor!

        Christmas trees….BAH, HUMBUG!

  3. Was Christmas even an existing Feast of the Church during Tertullian’s time? I think not. It’s likely that Tertullian was criticizing the use of celebratory greenery and decorations by pagans in their feasts; neither the Feast of Christmas nor Christmas trees and decorations existed for him to criticize during his own time.

    • Ah! I see that the linked article is cognizant that Tertullian was criticizing Christians who decorated their homes with greenery at the traditional pagan festivals; what I don’t see is how his criticism is relevant in any way for our own Christmas tree tradition, since it’s obvious that what he’s objecting to is Christians continuing to celebrate pagan religious customs.

      But that Tertullian was a regular hell-fire-and-brimstone fundy, wasn’t he? “Let them over whom the fires of hell are imminent, affix to their posts, laurels doomed presently to burn…” Yikes! I guess there’s nothing new in the existence of this type of Christian, always anxious for the existence of hellfire for other people to burn in.

      • Burro [Mule] says:

        Tertullian is not St. Tertullian. He left the catholic Church to join the Montanists, one of the first sects fro whom the established Church was too tepid and “worldly”, and for whose lukewarmness hell-fire and brimstone was thought to be an effective deterrent.

        He was eloquent, though.

    • Tertullian sounds like a kind of legalistic no-fun-damentalist gasbag.

    • Synchronism has always been a part of Christianity. It can be argued the imposition of Jewish law and subsequent discussion in the New Testament was the first example. European Christians made the choice very early to meld their past into their new creation. I am particularly interested in the present day synchronism in the Lowcountry of SC inside the Gullah culture which melds Christianity and Orisha.

  4. Wonderful Emma!!

    born before Rural Electrification, airplanes, automobiles (beta versions don’t count), telephone, penicillin, and, she may well remember Teddy Roosevelt as POTUS…

  5. If it weren’t for having such a determined and ineffective enemy of the U.S. Castro would only have been a blip on the radar of the 1960’s.

    POWER TO DA PEPPLES!!

  6. I didn’t know that Santa had a Harry-Ferguson 35 tractor…my first tractor was the same model.

    • Santa should, of course, drive a John Deere. I know this might call for some major adjustments to his overall color scheme, but so much the worse for his red color scheme.

  7. Kaitlyn sings wonderfully!! BRAVO!

    Congrats Michael. Ain’t grandkids fun?!

  8. Post-truth politics is not something new. Pilate asked, “What is truth?” It has received a significant public revival after a couple generations of people thinking it might be on the way out. But any rumors of its demise were premature.

    • What is truth? Apparently now, it is whatever you decide it is. I realize politicians have always stretched the truth, but this election cycle is the first time I can remember a politician and his minions looking straight at the camera over and over and over denying what there is proof of them saying. It is something to behold.

      • senecagriggs says:

        I’m assuming you’re talking about Hillary.

      • Idk. Suzanne. Politicians throughout history have frequently not only stretched the truth, but broken it into pieces. Pilate stretched and broke Jesus’ body on a cross, because power, not truth, was what mattered to him and those who governed around him, enemies and allies alike. And Jesus was not the first or last to be stretched and broken on the cross of power, which has frequently been at cross-purposes with truth. If there had been cameras for them to lie to, I have no doubt they would’ve, and denied their lies in the next breath in front of the same cameras.

        What I see happening is that Trump and others around the world have tapped into a power that has been dormant in large sections of many national populaces, a power that rises out of resentment of the media/professional/academic professionals who (let’s be honest) have frequently packaged and twisted the truth in the service of suit-and-tie wearing politicians and leaders whose values they agree with, and whose agendas they want to promote.

        This is why someone like Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau (a poster-boy for the interface of shared values and agendas between the educated liberal political establishment and vast swaths of the media) will credit Castro as a visionary, though of course make a point of disagreeing with his methods. After all, he did some good things from a progressives point of view, never mind that he was a brutal butcher and socialist ideologue who ruthlessly controlled the nation he conquered for decades.

        But just imagine a major Western leader being just a little ambivalent about Hitler’s legacy, pointing to his development of the autobahn system and the Volkswagen, or the welfare system he put in place in Germany to help indigent Germans. Such a politician would be rightly excoriated by most of the mainstream media, as he should be; so should any leader paying tribute to Castro, but it won’t happen to any significant extent, will it?

        I think Trump and others are exploiting the sense among many people that, if it’s alright for the professional classes to help progressive leaders stretch the truth, and bend it, as long as it’s done in the right political idiom by someone with bunch of credentials and a nice haircut who was educated in the right institutions of higher-learning
        and now has the right kind of agenda, which he shares with his neighbors, then it’s alright for someone like Trump, ignorant and gruff and coarse and clumsy, to break the truth, because it’s all about power anyway, and truth is another exercise in power. Truth? That’s a word they see thrown at them to keep them quiet and pacified, that tells them they’re ignorant and not worth heeding, that they should shut-up and go to their corners until they’ve been properly enlightened. They no longer believe or accept that truth has been anything but a tactic to silence them. Trump is the big fat finger they’re flipping at truth.

        I don’t agree with them, but I see where there feelings come from. They are not all racists, or homophobes, or misogynists, or xenophobes, or bullies (though some, too many, certainly are). They are at this time refusing to be cut out of the power game, due to poor pedigree or under-education. They are exercising power, though I suspect it will blow back at them very shortly, and with great power. The man they just elected is appointing the wealthiest insiders presidential cabinet ever, people who don’t give a shit about the working-class, the middle-class or anyone outside their insiders club. Drain the swamp? He’s installing bigger swamp creatures in the swamp than have ever been there before.

        • “But just imagine a major Western leader being just a little ambivalent about Hitler’s legacy…”
          Does it count the we have one now who is rousingly supported by White Supremicists/Neo-Nazis/KKK? And there is not that much hand wringing over it that I can see.

        • Christiane says:

          ” . . . . . They are at this time refusing to be cut out of the power game, due to poor pedigree or under-education. They are exercising power, though I suspect it will blow back at them very shortly . . . . ”

          and the tragedy is that they didn’t know what they were doing and when it all turns and comes back at them, it will be a vicious, cruel thing for these people to bear

    • You ever stop to think about just how unlikely it would be for a Roman leader to release a known terrorist instead of some quiet Jewish religious figure that a few people got a crowd to dislike?

      Like…it boggles the mind and is incredibly unlikely from the Roman perspective.

      I wonder who was really released.

      • Perhaps no one was released, and perhaps Jesus seemed far more threatening to the Romans than the Gospels depict.

  9. Speaking of Starbucks and the “War on Christmas”, here is a little history lesson about the original War on Christmans in the US
    http://www.historytoday.com/chris-durston/puritan-war-christmas

    I mentioned this a few years ago during a church Bible study. Several women were incredulous. What??? Those early settlers we think of as such godly people didn’t celebrate Christmas?!?! I honestly don’t think most of them believed me…

    • Richard Hershberger says:

      That’s because these culture war issues are, well, cultural issues in the guise of being religious issues. The Puritan opposition to Christmas was part of their opposition to Roman Catholicism. Christmas itself wasn’t really the issue. Opposition to Catholicism remained a long time, but the anti-Christmas element proved a liability and was ditched.

      This is far from unique. I am very aware through my early baseball research of Sabbatarianism. The idea of Sunday baseball was horrifying to all decent, respectable middle class people–or at least they felt it necessary to claim they were horrified. So much so that the discussion within organized baseball was whether it was better to have Sunday games–getting huge crowds of working class people who couldn’t attend any other day–or not play Sunday ball, losing the Sunday crowd but using this to market to the middle class. The whole discussion is just weird today, where the Sunday NFL game is considered practically sacramental by churches of all stripes. I have the same difficulty persuading people that this ever really was a thing.

      We could add to the list endlessly. Alcohol was a normal part of life until it became subject to the culture wars. There were good reasons to oppose the use of alcohol, or at least excessive use, but the church felt the need to make up doctrine to make this a religious fight against the Devil’s brew.

      And yes, I will go there: abortion. The president of the Southern Baptist Convention hailed Roe v. Wade as a blow for religious freedom. At that time opposition to abortion was regarded as a Catholic thing, and therefore suspect at best. Then around 1980 Evangelicalism shifted, adopting the issue as the culture war issue of choice. But tell an Evangelical the history and he likely won’t believe you, even if he is old enough to remember when the shift occurred.

      The upshot is that today’s culture war issues are always eternal and huge fights for the soul of America. Yesterday’s culture war issues are quaint relics of the past at best, and probably never really were a thing. Tomorrow’s culture war issues? One shudders to think.

      • William H. Martin Jr says:

        On abortion and I’m not saying you said anything wrong was that women who did not want to carry a baby to term were hurting themselves and doing all kinds of things to their bodies to get rid of the unborn baby, Also backstreet unclean abortions were apart of the decision made. I am not a fan of abortion but I don’t see love in the protest here in my own city as they badger young women who go into family planning centers. Seems like a waste of time and them not wanting to get their hands dirty as it might to much of their time. My first daughter was born because of family planning as we couldn’t till a women named Kay found out the reason which is my daughters middle name. Do we really ant to go back to women jumping from ladders and hitting their stomachs.

        • William H Martin,
          Do you really see death as the only solution? How sad. There are so many better options that celebrate life. There are so many crisis pregnancy centers reaching out with loving arms to help with what is needed. We are instructed by God not to kill the innocent–who is more innocent than a baby in the womb?

          • A living breathing born child. Born to an unwed mother of a minority.

            They are. Vastly more important. And more innocent.

            • Both a breathing born and non-born child are equally innocent. How can one child be more important than another? And to whom? God? He loves them all, born, pre-born, minority, “majority”, of married or unmarried parents. Who are we to decide which children to let live and which to sacrifice?

              • William H. Martin Jr says:

                I am not a judge. Nor would I ever be even if God Himself ask me to be. I could not decide if my sister should go to hell or anyone of my children and how grateful I am to not have to. I truly believe he is alive and on the throne. I have actually no say in what he does. Free will is to me an illusion at least while I’m here. Everything was design and created in His favor and it is exactly doing what it is suppose to do. I never decided to be here as far as I know nor would I ever choose a place like this and I have no wish to ever do it again. Death a solution. If I want to leave here and unfortunately it had to be for Jesus so he could overcome it for me and everyone else. Unfortunately the time the law was made women were doing extreme things to not carry their unborn. Many died in their attempts. Also unfortunately when the law passed in favor of abortion the dam burst and it became the great tragedy we have gotten to know. I really think the best way is through loving and trying to help as you have mentioned. Laws tend to cause rebellion and sometimes things get worse.

                • I agree, we are not called to judge and I don’t. But, I do believe we have free will and by exercising our free will we can use the grace that Lord provides us when we ask for it, to make decisions in accordance to His will. We can atone for our mistakes and love our neighbor so he/she can know and love God. When we do this, we have joy that fills our being no matter what the circumstances.

                  • William H. Martin Jr says:

                    So in other words you choose to be here. It was your will. Isn’t nice all the death and such meanness from being to being. Love the drive to work not to mention the pain everyday so I can pay bills for others. Actually I don’t mind that so much if they can’t , they can’t. I use to think exactly like you about free will.

                    • William H. Martin Jr says:

                      It nice

                    • i choose life as long as God wants me here. I look forward to being with God, the Saints, saints, and my husband. Meanwhile, I have an assignment to love everyone and to let them know that they are precious in God’s eyes. When my will is working in concert with God’s, there is joy. When my choice is not, then unease, loss of serenity and peace occur. Prayer helps me to move forward. Think that you are sharing pain with Christ. maybe your pain will ease His during His Passion. I found t helped me.

          • William H. Martin Jr says:

            I didn’t say I was for abortion at all I only stated the climate that made the law. Do you really think that a women who doesn’t want the child and will do anything to stop the pregnancy isn’t going to do it. My first son My parents wanted to pay for the abortion because I was to young and so did my uncles and my oldest sister because it was out of wedlock and the girl said she was on the pill and wasn’t. The whole thing was screwed up just as much as me in the 70’s. She would have done it I was the only one who said no way I want no part of it. What a nice young man today. A CPA making good money with two young boys. I’m so proud of him.

            The point I was trying to make was the protesters that spend their time putting guilt and shame on these mostly young people could spend there time more wisely trying to help them. My sister had an abortion because she was young and would not tell my parents. Hurt till the day she died and she never had another chance. Your actually preaching to the choir. I guess we need to go back to making laws so we can preserve what we SHOULD be doing

            • William H. Martin Jr says:

              Oh held my first grandson at 24 weeks till his last attempt at breathing . All there and it hurt like hell. I howled so loud I’m sure I shook the whole wing. Cried the whole way up the mountain, Got to the top and somewhere inside me a voice said sing to him. So I did through the tears and I started to heal. Man you don’t me at all.

              • William H. Martin Jr says:

                My first grandson born to early without fully functioning lungs died in my hands. Saw his lasts movements. Labor induced because he was dying in the womb and now was a threat to my daughter. My son just had his first son with his wife. She was pregnant 3 times before that and each time they were past and she lost the pregnancy. That isn’t new at all. We just have tests that tell us earlier. Mostly I don’t know what to think but it is in His hands. Jesus said not my will but yours. We pray like he said Your will be done. It would seem nothing of any good comes without the surrendering of our will which really isn’t capable of doing anything here. If God will’s it then it is done. Finished I believe He said on the cross. The adversary wanted Jesus to exercise His will .

                Addicts and alcoholics only seem to get somewhere when they turn it over and surrender. So many little Gods fooling themselves. Your will be done here as it in Heaven is a statement not a request. Everyday has been accounted for. He knows you so well he even counts the hair on your head. Job always messed me up because his family was killed. God over came it as was His will. He doesn’t think like us. I’m done good night

            • Some people are on their knees, praying. They will help the mothers find the resources they need for a positive solution. They pray to heal the mothers and fathers from the pain of the abortion. It’s done from love.

              • The first step is acknowledging that there may not actually be in any pain from the abortion, except in your own heart. Not everyone regrets their abortion, not every abortion was wrong to have committed. Don’t assume.

                Start there.

                • flatrocker says:

                  The first step is acknowledging that a life form has been extinguished. It may be non-viable. It may be completely dependent. It may be pain sensitive. Or it may not have a developed nervous system that registers what we may commonly define as pain. But one thing it most certainly is not is some form of cellular mass devoid of “animated life.”
                  Don’t assume.

                  How about we start there.

          • SottoVoce says:

            We have a great option to stop abortions that also has the tremendous benefits of preventing untold numbers of natural miscarriages (since, I will remind you, nearly two-thirds of pregnancies miscarry) and cuts down the rates of the serious health risks that pregnancy imparts to women (who, as living and breathing, already active moral agents in the world are of greater importance than a ball of pluripotent cells). It’s called contraception. If you really care about life, you can start by supporting free access to it for all women.

            • Patrick Kyle says:

              In the West, birth control is cheap or even free, and is plentiful.. God forbid that anything should interfere with the free and wanton exercise of our sexuality, especially something as inconvenient and troublesome as pregnancy and the pesky responsibilities that go with it. But hey, we have to have free rein to have sex with whomever and whenever we want, dammit, even if it means killing the unborn, or getting others to pay for our birth control.

            • Start before that. People start valuing life and love. Don’t have sexual intercourse unless you love that person and are committed to him/her.

              • William H. Martin Jr says:

                I value your position Pilgrim and would never tell you to stop doing. It really isn’t my place. Your journey is yours and I have no you should for you. Keep going, keep loving and i sincerely hope God’s will will open time for you to do this passion with Him. That is Joy as I know it…..Just a w

            • William H. Martin Jr says:

              Scott it would seem God might be protecting women who cannot yet carry to term. So does he perform this. I don’t even want ago there the whole of the discussion from both sides sickens me and just becomes distraction from young people who are hurting. I seem to know this first hand.

  10. Steve Newell says:

    Instead of ranking retailers who is “Christmas friendliness”, we rank churches

    Nice: Weekly Advent Services, Christmas Eve Services, Christmas Day Services

    Marginal: Christmas Eve and maybe Christmas Day Services. They may have a “special Christmas program” that looks more like a Broadway play or a rock concert.

    Naughty: No Advent, Christmas Eve, or Christmas Day services. They cancel Sunday Services on Christmas Day so that people could spend time with family.

    I care more about how our Churches and Families celebrate the birth of our Savior than a retailer who uses Christmas to separate me from my money for the purposes of buying more stuff to give others.

  11. Burro [Mule] says:

    Re: both post-truth politics and Fidel Castro

    I am not as old as some here, but I am old enough to remember long anti-Communist screeds in the Reader’s Digest, and how they were scorned and thought risible by the more sophisticated, who generally thought of Communism as a slightly more extreme version of social democracy, the kind they were trying to bring to pass in this country, but which the Yahoos and Bible-thumpers blocked at every turn. There was a great amount of sympathy for Fidel Castro as well.

    Why does socialism so stubbornly refuse to work? By all rights, it should, but it has turned every country it has touched into an unlivable hellhole. Except Bolivia, so far, but Bolivia’s president lives like a Carthusian monk. Pinochet was a ghastly dictator, but if you kept your mouth shut and didn’t produce dance pieces about lesbians Chile was a pretty livable place. Same with Franco’s Spain. (I lived briefly in both places under both men)

    And if socialism doesn’t work, what political ideology do we extend to the mounting number of losers in our winner-take-all hypercompetitive economy?

    • William H. Martin Jr says:

      Often believed communism in a pure form would be good for people. of course with freedom to worship. if people worked for the betterment of a brother it would be great incentive to make better infrastructure to make sure loved ones are safe. Problem is we have never seen it. Wicked men seem to like absolute power totally ruining them and their countries with them becoming like a god deciding who lives and dies. Who is poor or not. Sad man just cannot seem to love a neighbor especially one with a different opinion. Challenging to me are those that simply don’t care at all. Downer sometimes that could be me.

    • Good question, Burro. We are told from many pulpits that our system is the only godly system. I don’t believe that when I see the suffering of the losers of society, some suffering from their own poor decisions but many suffering from being in the wrong place at the wrong time, from being born in the wrong family, from being exposed to the wrong toxins.
      I question it especially this time of year when I see people in hyper consumer mode in order to (they say) celebrate the humble and lonely birth of whom they say is their God and King. Wouldn’t he better be honored with and humble and lowly celebration?

    • I have no idea what you are talking about, Mule, since democratic socialism is the most successful form of government in human history by many standards. I suspect I am using more precise economic terms, given my extensive business schooling, while you might be using the words in another, or perhaps colloquial, form. Thinking in terms of provincial economic “systems” is largely unhelpful, however, since modern economics is determined by supply chain and the liberalization of trade between nations. Think meta-economics.

      • William H. Martin Jr says:

        It definitely seems to me you are intelligent and above my pay grade. I’m not really business oriented even though I worked for myself for 30 years. I just try to work hard and hope my dealings are satisfying to me as well as who I am working for and to get paid. My father never got out of his 60’s nor my uncle who did the same thing I do. I will be 57 soon. I’ll just keep going to I fall over.

        The thing I see In Jesus was to urge us to love our neighbors as ourselves. This is the only way a communist state could ever make it along with a leader that would stress that belief and be that humble. I imagine that such a government might not ever happen by man alone. Still it would be nice to see a small government give it a go. My father would be disgusted at me saying such things. Yet he was union and those that didn’t worked nearly as hard as him made the same. I was union working with him at one time and just had to leave. I got sick of hearing why are you working so hard we make the same no matter what we do. I just like to work hard it made my day go faster. Love would pick up the slack and help those who aren’t quite there yet.

        Was in Church once and a man told a story that no matter how hard students worked their grade would be an average of the entire class. After a time the averages got lower and that’s what is wrong with this world. In the Kingdom averages would get higher because those that had ability would want to raise those who didn’t and work even harder. His thinking is what brings us down because we don’t exactly teach how to love which in my opinion has to be the most important.

        Democratic socialism does seem to be close in many ways. I was on welfare early in my life for year or a little more. What a trap and such poorly wasted money. I had to work on the side for what ever I could get to save for a car and insurance to find a better job to actually get off it. Cheat. Early 80″s 3 dollars an hour because people knew they could do that. We can do so much better. If we can show we have solutions there is a whole huge army of volunteers that would help. If they see it is useless they won’t waste the time.

      • Klasie Kraalogies says:

        Thing is, “Democratic Socialism ” is not really socialism in terms of the production side of the equation. It believes in/requires a free market. While it regulates the excesses of the playing field, it doesn’t regulate the players. It therefore encourages growth, speculation, innovation etc. The state provides protection for the workers in the form of safety nets, in the form of educational opportunities, healthcare etc, by means of progressive taxation etc.

        This is not Marx, who was an economic ignoramus. If anything this is Roepke and Böhm and others (in Germany at least).

        • Klasie Kraalogies says:

          Also, before I forget, the successful Social Democracies (Scandinavian countries, Germany, Netherlands, Singapore and others) are NOT protectionist NOR populist. That is where Bernie Sanders showed his profound ignorance. He was too much of an old school lefty.

        • I guess I support political movement toward Social Democracy. Unfortunately, the US will now be headed in the opposite direction for who knows how many years. Trump and Pence have indicated that their administration will not be small government; they intend to extend the power and economic influence of the federal government, but not in socialist directions. If they have their way, I imagine the end result being a polluted dystopia where it rains all the time, like the one depicted in the movie Bladerunner.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        When the subject came up before, I opined that the Social Democrat form of Socialism only had one intrinsic problem: The large bureaucratic overhead needed to run all those social programs and the resulting centralization of power.

        Bureaucracies being what they are, as entropy sets in over time they are in danger of a decline narrative from Lawful Neutral through Lawful Stupid to Lawful Evil as the Bureaucrats increasingly become a self-perpetuating caste running the system for their own benefit. This would make them prone to Oligarchy (Bureaucrat Caste) and Dictatorship — all a wanna-be Fuehrer or invader needs to do is knock over the capital and centralized bureaucracy and he’s got everything.

        Cultural/Ethnic Diversity would also be a factor; this sort of system would work best where the country was ethnically/culturally homogenous (like Scandinavia). Too many competing ethnic cultures and you risk benefiting one at the expense of another and Multicultural Yugoslavia.

        • Burro [Mule] says:

          Singapore is a multicultural state, and more than a little authoritarian. There is religious freedom in Singapore, but little tolerance for sexual shenanigans or criticism of the government. It is a prosperous place, very open to entrepreneurial activity, but like in South Korea, the government has a big hand in picking the winners.

          From what I have been told, they watch the ethnic composition very closely. Singapore is roughly 3/4 Chinese, 3/16 Malay and 1/16 Tamil/Orissa. The big issue right now is Malay birth rates outstrip the Chinese and the Indians are afraid of vanishing.

      • flatrocker says:

        That and $20 trillion in debt run up and you’re really on to something there, Stuart.

        Get me the Venezuelan President on Line 1.

        • flatrocker says:

          And my future grandchildren on Line 2.

        • At least half of that $20 trillion debt is for the support of our Military Industrial Complex…

          • flatrocker says:

            Actually Tom, the issue is we are increasing our level of debt by roughly a half trillion a year. The impact of this increase is an ever larger debt service on the interest charges for this debt. This basically presents us with two primary options – We either pay down the debt or we carry the charges in interest payments. We are electing to carry the charges (assuming we don’t want to default or radically devalue).

            The basic federal plan over the next 5 years is to increase tax revenues, increase social spending and decrease defense spending. Sounds like a noble goal until you start to realize the debt just continues to pile on.

            So $20T goes to $25T goes to $30T, and the interest payments exceed our welfare programs as well as rival the defense budget. And btw, during which time most of us who are participating in this blog become blissfully retired living out the good life – we hope. We got ours and what we saddled our kids with ain’t our concern.

            Happy spending.
            (now what was that number of the Venezuelan President again?)

      • Klasie Kraalogies says:

        Except that that is not the traditional use of the word socialism, ie the ownership of the means of production bybthe state. All states provide some sort of social service – the presence of a strong social network such that in the Scandinavian countries have come to be called Social Democracy. But it is not Socialism.

        • Not quite. The definition of socialism is that the means of production should be owned by the community as a whole. The more specialized definition used by Marx was a transitional state from capitalism to communism. Of course, post-modernism helped us to understand that the real issue is about power, not what “brand” of economics one paints over their power structures. But technically, it is impossible to have any socialism that isn’t democratic, by definition.

    • Why does socialism so stubbornly refuse to work? By all rights, it should, but it has turned every country it has touched into an unlivable hellhole.

      There are several and various forms of “socialism”. Most of Europe is highly socialized. Tell the Finns and Scandinavians and Canadians that their socialism is non-workable and has turned their countries into unlivable hellholes.

      I don’t know of any country that operates economically as a “pure” socialist state–just as I know of no country that has a pure capitalistic economy.

      “Socialism” is broader than the “ownership of the means of production by the state.” Democratic Socialism is “socialism”, just as Social Security in the US is “socialism”, just as Veterans Hospitals in the US are socialistic…

  12. ” ‘It’s a transparent attempt to stir up false conflict in order to rally a certain subset of Christians against so-called liberal culture,’ Owens said.”
    And this is why so many don’t want to hear or countenance the real Gospel of Jesus Christ- it’s been thoroughly hijacked by this segment of “christianity”. How does the Church heal this sickness within itself? How does the Church distinguish itself from this self-righteous, fearful, antagonistic group. (I’m tempted to call it a cult or something… not sure it’s at that level but what would appropriate?)

    • While I agree with this broadly, I think the Starbucks Christmas controversy is more of a media creation than anything else. I know of no-one, literally not one person, who cares what Starbucks puts on its cups.

      • I do know a few, Daniel. Just like I know a number of people who get themselves all riled up when some poor overworked retail clerk doesn’t wish them a Merry Christmas.

        • I don’t always type “Merry Xmas”, but I do it often enough to the right people to make a point to them.

  13. “It used to be, everyone was entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts. But that’s not the case anymore. Facts matter not at all. Perception is everything – Stephen Colbert.
    https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/s/stephen_colbert.html

    Postmodernism: a relativistic system of observation and thought that denies absolutes and objectivity and signals a dissatisfaction with one or more aspects of modernity.

    I have stated on many occasions that this departure from objective, factual, rational, reason-based approach to truth is rooted in the abandonment of modernism known as post-modernism. Both left and right will accuse the other of choosing feeling or perception over fact but can’t see the same shift in their own world view. For years, conservatives have accused liberals of believing, “It’s not what 2+2 equals; its how you FEEL about 2+2”. At the same time, many Christians have concluded that faith and reason are incompatible – without admitting they had made the same departure from objective truth. Doubt as an essential component in arriving at truth became an anathema. To quote Colbert again, “In order to maintain an untenable position, you have to be actively ignorant. One motto on the show is, ‘Keep your facts, I’m going with the truth.’ ” (IBID).

    It’s not just that perception is more important than facts; the internet provides a place to find someone who will defend anyone’s perception of truth – one own personal ghetto to hide from the world that makes one uncomfortable with a personal definition of truth. That is why “fake news” sites are a fixture of modern politics. There is nothing “fake” about them for those who find in them a defense for their own personal perception of reality.

    But again, we live in a world of frogs in a pan of boiling water where each says to the other, “Gee, you’re getting awfully warm”. I remember sharing on Facebook the Voltaire quote, “Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities”, and receiving universal approval from friends equally on the left and right. No one sees in the mirror this personal abandonment of objective truth to prefer instead emotional appeals, dog whistles, designer facts, conspiracies, and propaganda. We are ripe for exploit by anyone with the will-to-power who will tell us what we want to hear.

    • William H. Martin Jr says:

      I don’t know. Post modern Is something I tend to do. I have no reason to believe some of the stuff that came from the 50’s 60’s and 70’s…… Especially when it came to the poor Methodist sermons of my youth. Stuff way out of context and mostly that is true today with churches I visit. I don’t have time to be a scholar and pay bills. Finding out how bad some of the stuff actually is leads to a doubt. Some of the worst sermons lead me to believe things in an opposite way and actually hold on to them better……So wish Martin Luther King would have lived. I do believe he was the perfect man to lead people out of poverty and make an economic force with a voice here and we so need it. Wasn’t he republican and the southern democrats more or less the opposition. So much rewriting history to suit our on purposes I just can’t see believing what I hear ass truth.

      Leaving out or omitting facts that had a lot to do with the times is sorta like lying. Just like having to have a second front on D- Day ( not implying that those men weren’t extreme;y brave as my grandfather’s brother is buried there) but had to be or Russia would of ran over Europe. Yet we supplied most of what a mass murderer needed to turn the tide. Got right into bed with the devil himself. Patton wanted to keep going I wander what he saw and didn’t say. another for me is bare knuckle fighting redneck from Illinois who caused more american deaths than other single man. You want me to believe what when every other country was able to do it without war. Can’t do it. Or the profiteering during the revolution where Mt. Vernon was redecorated while in Philly people were eating rotten potatoes. Not to mention the other suffering and loses. We tend to ignore it yet there it is. What a rant the sadness I feel for so many is real enough.

  14. Richard Hershberger says:

    solar power stations: This is not a new idea. They were building plants in the Mojave Desert along these lines as far back as the 1980s. The Ivanpah plant, near the Nevada state line, is the most recent example. This approach has some advantages. It heats some substance very very hot, which is then used to boil water to power turbines. The substance is so hot that the boiling of water continues through the night, so you don’t have the “what about nighttime?” problem of solar power. That being said, I gather that the results of the Mojave plants have been disappointing. The price of photovoltaic power production has been coming down, and battery efficiency improving. We aren’t that far off from a day when the solar panels on the roof of your house will charge up the battery in your basement, providing even power throughout the day and night. But it is a good idea to pursue all avenues. Who knows? Maybe plants like we see in Morocco will turn out to be the way to do, or at least a useful supplement.

    • William H. Martin Jr says:

      I wonder if using solar in greater ways could at some point put in balance the warming trend we see now. Technology especially with batteries and greater ways to up percentages would take heat back out. i don’t know I’m just wondering?

  15. I remember when Castro came to power, tho I didn’t understand it much at the time. I was in Florida with my family on Christmas vacation and my grandfather had just died unmourned by any. All that sticks in my mind is my grandmother running around closing drapes after the funeral so the neighbors wouldn’t see us laughing. I hitchhiked back to Michigan ahead of the family’s return which should have been memorable in December but wasn’t.

    It was a couple of years later when people driving past me and searching for invectives to hurl at me along with a beer bottle would only be able to come up with “Castro!”. I never did have a dog in the Cuban fight but I understood it somewhat better when it occurred to me many years later that Cuba was about as far away from Florida as I was from Wisconsin standing on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. When I was a kid I had always wanted to build an oil barrel raft and sail across, something probably equally dangerous as the Cubans later did. It would have been a lot easier to sail from Wisconsin to Michigan with the prevailing winds, but in any case I never did it and am unlikely to check that off my bucket list at this point in the game.

    Even now it seems to me that replacing control of your country by Mafia crime syndicates is not entirely a bad idea, tho today the Sicilians everywhere have pretty much been replaced by other gangsters, perhaps not in Sicily. It also strikes me as remarkable that a little backward island was able to defy the might of the greatest Empire on Earth for something like sixty years being close enough to sail across in an oil barrel raft. But I’ve got other fish to fry.

  16. So this is the first time I am aware of “post-truth” as a buzz word. My immediate reaction is that it has the smell of social engineering and is meant to steer my thinking along certain lines I do not care to participate in. Probably thought up by the same people who came up with the “fake news” meme. I certainly recognize what it intends to say and would agree that most people today have climbed on to a wagon of emotional propaganda and ideology, forsaking open-mindedness and discernment, including too many people in these pages.

    Castro’s revolution was like a rock being thrown in the pond. What is happening today as we speak is like a storm surge of truth coming in to inundate and obliterate the pond, not yet a tsunami but you might want to keep something that floats handy. For many years it has been my basic operating principle to seek truth wherever it leads, and if you want to make that Truth with a capital “T”, that’s okay with me. In the past few years as this rising tide of truth and disclosure has grown stronger, the people I have been most attuned to have begun describing themselves as “truth-seekers”. They are open-minded, willing to look at what is right in front of their eyes rather than what the mass media presents, and they don’t confuse skepticism and discernment with upholding dogma and ideology.

    This world-wide revolution is certainly bigger than anything I have experienced in a life that started along with World War II. It has every indication of perhaps being bigger than anything in our history books period. I’m certainly not holding my breath on that one, but I am more hopeful and optimistic than at any previous time in my life. It seems to me that the outcome depends in part, a small part, on how well I can live my life day to day in accordance with the teachings and the Spirit of the man who sometimes referred to himself as the Truth. Some days I don’t do so well, but I’m giving it my best shot.

    This world-wide revolution of the people against the elite, the 1%, the globalists, the New World Order if you will, is ongoing and getting more open by the day. There is much resistance, understandable if you consider that those in power for so long are losing control and getting desperate. What is not so understandable to me is that there is so much resistance in these pages from intelligent, educated, well-meaning people. It can be discouraging, and in the effort to stay strong and positive it is sometimes necessary to keep moving. More and more my operative Scripture is the one found almost at the end of the New Covenant where it is said, ” The time is at hand. Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy.” A good time to wake up and smell the coffee. Post-truth indeed.

    • Charles, I hope you’re not suggesting that what’s sizing up to be Trump’s billionaire/insider’s/Wall Street club of a cabinet is any part of the overthrow of the globalist New World Order that you see happening. It looks more like the 1% of the 1%.

      • But Trump isn’t a Mason. Your argument is invalid.

      • Robert F,
        You might want to try a different yardstick than net worth when evaluating Trump’s picks. They are men and women of diverse experience, with a history of being effective and not afraid of fresh perspectives. We need new solutions and approaches, not the same, tired, bureaucratic ideas. He is talking to a lot of experts, which is the secret for an excellent administration. Try enlarging your sources for information.

      • Robert, perhaps we should keep using Obama/ Clinton parade of useless people who have gotten us where ? I have never seen a group of less qualified individuals. Instead of the 1per cent we got the Clinton foundation give and get awards. Which is worse ?

    • There does seem to be something up worldwide, but I am not sure what. I thing the jig is up that the bulk of the global financial gains are going to the very top, at least in previously prosperous nations. People want change but don’t seem all that interested in what kind of change. This is the sort of magical thinking that leads to people tossing out one poor leader only to take on a worse one. Change can lead to new ways of doing things or anarchy. I fear we are veering toward the latter.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        There does seem to be something up worldwide, but I am not sure what.

        And the Rapture Ready crowd (any minute now…) are only all too happy to tell you Just What Something Is Up. At great length.

  17. When I was a kid, in my Italian family, the Christmas tree didn’t go up until Christmas Eve, or perhaps a day or two before. Then it came down right after Epiphany, which we called Little Christmas. Anything else was unthinkable. Then the unthinkable became thinkable, and my family put up their trees around Thanksgiving. As for myself and my wife, we have no kids and little energy, so we’ll just admire other people’s trees this year.

    • Our kids are all gone, but youngest daughter lives nearby and helps us decorate every year. Our trees have been getting smaller, but we still have a live one.

      My husband’s family put up the tree the weekend after Thanksgiving and took it down the day after Christmas. My family was more like yours; my dad’s birthday was December 22, and most years his “present” was to seat the tree in the stand and fasten two long brown shoelaces around the trunk and tack them into each side of the corner where we had the tree, in preparation for decoration. Tree stayed up until Epiphany. My husband is content to do it my family’s way; even when our kids were little, the tree didn’t go up until around the 20th.

      For me, Christmas will always be the traditional 12 days, beginning Christmas Day. I don’t cotton to celebrating “The Month of Christmas” (December); with the bleeding away of religious people from church, “Christmas” has replaced Advent. There is no more anticipation; it’s all about the sales. Very sad.

      Dana

  18. Very interesting article about Castro, and conflicted emotions, over at Father Ernesto’s blog:

    https://www.orthocuban.com/2016/11/rejoicing-in-the-death-of-a-sinner/

  19. Christiane says:

    Loved the Allison Krauss song. The lyrics are poetic and thought-provoking. She has the voice of an angel. Gifted!