Tuesday, November 30, 2004

The Historical Jesus: A Sharper Image


The Gospel according to Robert Funk
By Patrick Sullivan
From the May 7-13, 1998 issue of the Sonoma County Independent.

ONCE UPON A TIME, Robert Funk was a teenage evangelist preaching to packed revival meetings. "I did that when I was starting out, sort of being a hotshot. I knew how to make people laugh, make them cry," Funk recalls with a self-deprecating chuckle, voice tinged with regret. A lot has changed since those evangelical days.

Now, as he sits in his busy Santa Rosa offices, the bespectacled, white-haired Funk is preaching a new gospel ... literally. The architect of a collaborative scholarly effort called the Jesus Seminar, Funk is the focus of a massive firestorm of controversy over the group's radical reinterpretation of the heart of the New Testament.

Essentially, the Jesus Seminar places Jesus Christ under the scholarly microscope. The deeds and words of Jesus as portrayed in the gospels are collected and evaluated by experts from various fields in an effort to establish their historical authenticity. The results then have been published in the seminar's 1995 bestseller The Five Gospels and in the newly released The Acts of Jesus (HarperSan Francisco; $35).

The shock waves generated by the final tallies have yet to quiet down. "We found that only 16 percent of the events we evaluated from the gospels were likely to be authentic," says Funk, a distinguished biblical scholar.

Indeed, the portrait of Jesus that emerges from the two books is deeply at odds with Christian orthodoxy. Forget the miracles: Funk dismisses anything like the idea of Jesus walking on water or raising the dead. Even the cozy stable in Bethlehem is out; it seems Jesus was actually born in Nazareth. More seriously, the historical Jesus is portrayed by the Jesus Seminar as a charismatic iconoclast who attacked contemporary religious institutions and social mores with revolutionary zeal and biting humor.

Of course, scholarly challenges to religious doctrine are nothing new. Riven by uncertainty, fraying into fundamentalism, Christianity might seem to some to be an easy target. But Funk argues that the Jesus Seminar's findings constitute an important new crisis for the faith.


"The rediscovery of who Jesus really was has powerful implications for the Christian tradition, for the institutions that grew out of this figure," Funk says. "If we allow him to have something to say about those institutions, they're going to suffer a new and sweeping reformation."

THIS CONTROVERSIAL effort had its beginnings here in California in 1985, when Funk, troubled by religious doubts and hungry for truth, put out a call for scholars to come together to discuss biblical issues. He was pleasantly surprised to have 35 people show up to the first meeting.

"Nobody had ever inventoried all the words attributed to Jesus or collected all the stories told about him, so I wanted to do that first," Funk says. "I guess I have the Tom Sawyer approach to painting fences. You have a big fence to paint, you get a bunch of people to help you paint it."

The big question tackled by the Jesus Seminar concerned the origin of what we now accept as the standard accounts of the life of Jesus. The first written narrative gospel, the Gospel of Mark, wasn't put down on paper until 50 years after the crucifixion. So how was information about these remarkable events transmitted across this half-century gap?

Circulated by word of mouth, subjected to reinterpretation and distortion, the discrete stories and sayings of Jesus were further shaped and augmented by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John when the evangelists turned the tales into coherent narratives.

"They were told and retold and passed around as single anecdotes," Funk says. "The same thing happens in the transmission of jokes today. We hear them and retell them and change them a little every time."

The scholars of the Jesus Seminar attempted to evaluate how much truth survived by watching for anachronisms, historical inaccuracies, and narrative impossibilities. They also asked medical experts to help explain accounts of miraculous healing and came up with some surprising theories, including the notion that Jesus may have exercised his powerful charisma to cure what we would today consider psychosomatic afflictions.

To people of faith unsettled by all of these revelations, Funk offers his compassion. For decades, he has struggled to hold on to his own deeply held religious beliefs, and he knows how troubling it can be to see them slipping away. While he still considers himself a Christian, he also knows that every day new scientific discoveries punch holes in the old framework of belief.

"I have a very deep sympathy for those people who are losing their faith," says Funk. "The myths that we live by have deep emotional roots--they're wrapped around our hearts."

Of course, not everyone accepts the Jesus Seminar's findings. Critics argue that the portrayal of Jesus as an iconoclastic opponent of religious institutions is suspiciously close to exactly what the seminar might be expected to find--God in their own image. To that criticism, Funk replies with some heat. "Most people who criticize that way never stop to think that the same thing also applies to them," he argues.

"The thing to do is to look at the actual evidence."

But he also acknowledges that the uncertainty among religious scholars holds true even among his allies. No one is sure what Christianity will look like in the new millennium. "I know many of the theological leaders of the churches, and I know they're at sea, as all of us are," Funk says. "We're about to cross a watershed of enormous significance. What's on the other side is difficult to say."

source: http://www.metroactive.com/papers/sonoma/05.07.98/funk-9818.html


Miracles and the Jesus Seminar


adapted from a report by David Millikan on a visit to Sydney of the Jesus Seminar in Sept. 1998


John Squires teaches New Testament at the School of Ministry. He spent an hour giving a fine introduction to the major texts and developments in what is now called the "Renewed Search for the Historical Jesus". He was talking about the torrent of information now available to New Testament scholars who wish to broaden their understanding of the culture, politics, religion and economic circumstances in which Jesus lived.

Compared to the early search for the historical Jesus which made its way into the public arena through the writings of Albert Schweitzer (1910) , there is an extraordinary amount of detail now available to us about the life of Jesus. It is this mass of material which fuels many of the studies that emerge from the Jesus Seminar. The state of the economy in Palestine, the character of the Roman occupation, the kinds of wine and food consumed, the condition of religion and many other questions about life in Jerusalem and Galilee during the time of Jesus can now be answered with some assurance. It is remarkable that the further we move away in time from the first century, the greater is our knowledge of what happened.

In the last 20 years a number of ideas about Jesus have emerged. There are those who say that we should see Jesus as a Rabbi among the other Rabbi's of his day. Robert Funk disagrees with this saying that Jesus clearly did not have the training necessary to inhabit this role. Others have suggested that he was a Zealot and part of the resistance movement which flared into life in the years after his death.

Others argue that Jesus was a sage, or a sort of wise man. There are those along with A.E. Harvey, E. Wright and E. Saunders have argued that Jesus was an eschatological prophet, whose central message was the imminent arrival of the Kingdom of God. Dominic Crosson, a Catholic priest and a well-known member of the Jesus Seminar, has taken another view, arguing in his recent books that Jesus was a peasant or marginalised Jew at the bottom of the social structures of his day. Other views see him as an Essene, a magician, or a "holy man"whose preoccupation was in criticising the contemporary concept of holiness.

All the scholars of the Jesus Seminar have in common the view which says God does not interfere with the natural process of this world through miracles. Beginning from this point of view, they are highly sceptical about stories of Jesus healing people, walking on water, bringing a man back from death, turning water into wine and so on. They have taken a position which puts them at odds with the orthodox center of Christianity.

Robert Funk, and the others in the Jesus Seminar, approach the New Testament already convinced that any stories of miracles, are not true. They look on the miracle stories as something other than history. For example, John Squires spoke with great assurance about the sort of house Jesus lived in (flat roof, made of mud), the sort of food he ate, the sort of clothes he wore etc. These are conclusions we can draw from historical data. But when we approach the miracle stories, Squires says: "Now we are moving from historical stories to stories which bare the character of confessional statements."

The argument proposed by the Jesus Seminar in regard to miracles goes like this: "At the end of the 20th century, Christians can no longer cling to a pre-scientific view of the world which puts God in heaven making the occasional foray into the world to disturb the natural order of things, so that he can achieve his divine purposes. The rise of modern science means that we must now read the miraculous stories of the New Testament aware that the early Christians had a naive belief that many things in the world were supernatural or miraculous."As Funk put it: "Why do we refuse to believe in the miracles which Homer wrote about and accept the miracles of the Gospels?"

It is Funk's view that the era of believing in miracles is well past. The world as we know it has moved beyond the primitive philosophical categories which dominated the thinking of the early Christians. There may be a large number of people in the churches who remain convinced that the miracle stories of the New Testament are true. But they will in time change. Funk says that the church is on the brink of a change which he calls the Second Reformation.

Funk talked about the early years of his life when he also held to this naive view of miracles. First he discovered the rich historical detail in Josephus, which he said was the moment when he "lost his innocence". Why this was the cause of his loss of innocence he did not explain. But I presume that it was the moment when the vision of Jesus given to him by his conservative American Protestant church was suddenly revealed to be at odds with the reality.

The next stage in Funk's development was through an encounter with the neo-orthodoxy of Karl Barth. It was from his reading of Barth and later Bultmann and Brunner that he realised that all theological statements are philosophically conditioned. He then spent some time as a parish minister but found the experience so constraining, he realised that his time within the doctrinal straight jacket of the Church was over.

He then moved to teaching in seminaries but again found the compromises asked of him too much. He began teaching in universities where his academic activities were not subject to the scrutiny of the churches. Finally, he came to teaching only graduate students who had no intention of proceeding toward the parish ministry. But even here he was not at rest. Funk said he found it, "painful beyond measure"that there seemed to be no future for his students. He was also saddened by the limited reach the discussion had outside of the university. "I saw colleagues who voted against tenure for scholars whose books were read by thousands rather than hundreds". So Funk left his University teaching and the "Jesus Seminar "was born.

What they are proposing is the most radical rewriting of the Christian vision of Jesus possible. For the last 2000 years the church has maintained that the resurrection of Jesus from the dead was an action of God in Jesus. But the Jesus Seminar scholars do not begin from this point of view. Robert Funk (and Dominic Crosson and Marcus Borg [3]) speak of Jesus as only a man. This surely is one of the most radical challenges to the orthodox Christian view of Christ possible.

The Once and Future Jesus: Betrayed by the Bible


The quest of the historical Jesus - who he was, what he said, what he did - has been one of he most exciting and controversial developments in contemporary religion. Thanks to decades of renewed interest and research, the way we think and talk about Jesus will never be the same. The Once and Future Jesus Conference took that quest to a new level. At this unprecedented gathering, leading thinkers turned their attention from the past to the future and asked: What do new understandings of Jesus mean for the church, the faith, and the world of tomorrow? Their answers can be found in the pages of this book.

Marcus Borg is Hundere Distinguished Professor of Religion and Culture at Oregon State University. John Dominic Crossan is Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies at DePaul University in Chicago. Robert W. Funk is Director of the Westar Institute and founder of the Jesus Seminar. Lloyd Geering is Emeritus Professor of Religious Studies at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. Karen L. King is Professor of New Testament Studies and the History of Ancient Christianity at Harvard Divinity School. Gerd Lüdemann is Professor of New Testament at the University of Göttingen, Germany. Thomas Sheehan is Professor of Religious Studies at Stanford University. John Shelby Spong retired as Episcopal Bishop of Newark, New Jersey, in January 2000. Walter Wink is Professor of Biblical Interpretation at Auburn Theological Seminar in New York City.

Robert W. Funk et. al.
The Once and Future Jesus
The End of the Old: the Advent of the New
Polebridge Press (August, 2000)

Turbulence and turmoil

We have come to the end of an era. The advent of a new millennium is merely an outward sign of the metamorphosis taking place. During the half century that separates us from World War II, momentous changes have taken place in our world - social, political, economic, cultural, religious, and especially mythic. It is possible here only to name them. Yet they are foundational to everything we have done and will do at sessions of the Jesus Seminar.

First of all, the mythic universe that furnished the frame of reference for out Western myths and creeds for more than two millennia is crumbling, in spite of popular reaffirmations to the contrary. The checkout stand of the local supermarket is not a reliable guide to what has happened to the mythical worldview that has supported Christian orthodoxy for the last two millennia. The world was not created six thousand years ago, along with individual species, as many once believed. The world will not end in a fiery holocaust at the hands of an angry God, as the book of Revelation suggests. And God does not dabble from time to time in the history of special peoples, as the Bible claims. These former mythic certainties are all gone.

When John Paul II announces that heaven and hell are metaphors, we know that the decay of the old cosmological myths is well advanced. After all, it took him and the Roman church nearly three and a half centuries to recognize and admit the injustice done to Galileo.

Secondly, we have come to the end of the Christian era - the end of the hegemony of the christianized, industrial West. That hegemony has given way to the global era, in which a world-wide economy, a universal technology, mass consumption, and instant communication between all parts of the globe have altered perceptions forever. And that is only part of the information revolution now in progress. For better or worse, we now inhabit a multi-cultural world in which Christianity and Judaism must compete with other religious traditions as old or older than themselves. We cannot put these developments back in the tribal bag, try as many ethnic groups will. This transition has enormous consequences for the future of Jesus, the church, and the faith.

The end of the Christian era is marked further by the decline of religious literacy. Religious literacy in American society has degenerated steadily in this century until knowledge of the basic components of the Christian tradition has reached an appalling low. The churches have all but abandoned their traditional role in education. The mainline churches have by and large adopted a defensive posture: they have raised the drawbridge and manned the battlements against women and gays, and against critical knowledge of Christian origins. The enemy turns out to be their own insecurities.

Retreat in one area breeds retreat in another. Scholars of religion are exiting Christian precincts at an alarming rate in order to gain the right to think unorthodox thoughts. Biblical scholarship and theology are moving into a wholly profane, secular setting. Many scholars have elected the safe route, which is to abandon the theological ship and seek refuge in a humanistic harbor.

The departure of scholars is matched, or perhaps exceeded, by the loss of clergy. The clergy have been caught in the tension between the chrches they have taken oaths to serve and the scholars who were their mentors in seminaries. Like other rational human beings, some have opted for the safe course, which is not to offend patrons of the parish in order to protect their pensions. The intellectual sacrifice has made them theological eunuchs in the temple of the Lord. Others have given up and quit the service of the church altogether. Still others - a few - have dared to broach the fundamental issues and behave like prophets, at great expense to themselves. A handful told the truth as they knew it from the start.

The mainline denominations, which are in fact oldline denominations, are in danger of becoming sideline denominations, as John Cobb warns. They have lost members at an alarming rate. Denominational loyalties have eroded. Their bureaucracies, however, remain mired down in parochialism, intransigent fiefdoms, and a medieval mentality.


Robert W. Funk

To top it off, there is the sense among many liberal-minded people that we have been betrayed by the Bible. In the half century just ending, there is belated recognition that biblically based Christianity has espoused causes that no thinking or caring person is any longer willing to endorse. We have had enough of the persecution of Jews and witches; of the justification of black slavery; of the surpression of women, sex, and sexuality; and of the stubborn defense of a male-dominated, self-serving clergy. The Bible is not to be blamed for all this misplaced self-righteousness; how we have employed it is at fault. We have created a mindless authoritarian bibliolatry. For Protestants, the office of holy inquisition has been the Bible. Religious and cultural wars are again being fought across the pages of the Bible over sexuality, the place of women in society, and special creation. We cannot, we must not, shrink from engagement with the ignorance and misunderstanding that fuels such egregious misuse of scripture.

The final transition we are making is the reconciliation of religion with the sciences. Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake on 17 February, 1600, for insisting, in opposition to the church, that the earth revolved around the sun. He was a champion of Copernican cosmology and Galileo's telescope. The church pretended it knew better. That pretension would have been bad enough, but the church would not tolerate dissent. Accordingly, the church rejected the sciences and prostituted history in defense of its own dogmas. It is now paying the price: Today, according to Roger Jones, "it is science that dictates to the church and not vice versa...It is science and not religion that gives today's world its rationale, morality, sustenance, and story of creation, such as it is." (Physics for the Rest of Us, 1992) At the very least, theology must be rejoined to the sciences. We cannot afford another extended divorce.

Meanwhile, we can do something about the rape of history for apologetic purposes conducted by Bible scholars and theologians as well-meaning friends of the churches. The end of the violation of history is what the renewed quest is all about. We have, I trust, advanced the cause of respect for the integrity of the past as the basic ethic guiding our work.

Renewal of the quest

The renewal of the quest of the historical Jesus in the 1970's signaled the desire to return to origins, to the beginning, to learn again what it meant and means to be a follower of Jesus of Nazareth. This quest was not born of idle curiosity, pursued by academics who had nothing better to do; it is a quest for the holy grail, for the innocence of a meal taken with toll collectors and sinners, when the Jesus movement was young, amorphous, and in a life and death stuggle to find its way in the world. The renewed quest is the herald of a radical reformation - the recovery of the once and the projection of the future Jesus.

These are high sounding words, to be sure. Yet consider what the eight platform lecturers have contributed to the renewal of the quest and the search for a credible faith.

Tom Sheehan anticipated the Seminar in 1986 with his book, The First Coming. How the Kingdom of God Became Christianity. In that book, Tom wrote "Jesus had freed himself from religion and apocalypse by transforming hope into charity and by recasting future eschatology as present liberation." The clarity of Tom's picture gave heart to the rest of us who were only beginning to find our way. Tom was the harbinger of the quest even then aborning.

Marc Borg launched his own quest in 1984 with Conflict, Holiness and Politics in the Teaching of Jesus. He followed in 1987 with Jesus: A New Vision and then with Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time (1994). The Jesus one meets in these pages has been imbibed by thousands who act as though they were dying of thirst on a spiritual desert. In Meeting Jesus Again, Marc wrote that the notion that God's only son came to this planet to offer his life as a sacrifice for the sins of the world is simply incredible. The interpretation of Jesus as both high priest and final sacrificial victim was meant to displace the religion of the second temple, but instead it became the vehicle for retaining and maintaining temple religion under new auspices.

Dominic Crossan joined the parables parade early on its modern history. His little book, Dark Interval, published originally in 1975, sketches a theory of parable that underlies his In Parables (1973). He pioneered the study of Jesus' aphorisms in In Fragments (1983). His ground-breaking study of the passion narrative, Who Killed Jesus? (1995), challenged Christian anti-Semitism at its narrative roots. And of course his revolutionary biographies of Jesus have mesmerized hordes of readers. I hear people speaking glibly about "open commensality" and "radical egalitarianism" as though they were phrases heard on the evening news.

The irony of the German theological tradition is that Gerd Ludemann is battling for his academic life when he should be honored as a legitimate successor to D. F. Strauss. He has written books on the resurrection, on the virgin birth, on the heretics in early Christianity, and on the unholy in scripture, along with important studies of Paul. He has finally been driven to renounce Christianity as a result of what ...

Monday, November 29, 2004

Kerry Voters Are Smarter Than Bush Voters

Being smarter will not save you. Case in point, the recent election. Ted Rall (no relation) makes a case for why we need to elevate the general educational/intelligence level of our population. This may occur naturally as Americans start to give up on TV, a wasteland of minor sensation which deserves almost no attention.


Win or Lose, Kerry Voters Are Smarter Than Bush Voters

NEW YORK--Democratic hand wringing is surrealy out of hand. No one is criticizing the morally incongruous Kerry for running against a war he voted for while insisting that he would have voted for it again. Party leaders have yet to consider that NAFTA, signed into law under Clinton, may have cost them high-unemployment Ohio. No, Indiana Senator Evan Bayh, darling of the "centrist" Democratic Leadership Council, blames something else: the perception "in the heartland" that Democrats are a "bicoastal cultural elite that is condescending at best and contemptuous at worst to the values that Americans hold in their daily lives."

Firstly, living in the sticks doesn't make you more American. Rural, urban or suburban--they're irrelevant. San Francisco's predominantly gay Castro district is every bit as red, white and blue as the Texas panhandle. But if militant Christianist Republicans from inland backwaters believe that secular liberal Democrats from the big coastal cities look upon them with disdain, there's a reason. We do, and all the more so after this election.

I spent my childhood in fly-over country, in a decidedly Republican town in southwest Ohio. It was a decent place to grow up, with well-funded public schools and only the occasional marauding serial killer to worry about. The only ethnic restaurant sold something called "Mandarin Chinese," Midwestese for cold noodles slathered with sugary sauce. The county had three major employers: the Air Force, Mead Paper, and National Cash Register--and NCR was constantly laying people off. Folks were nice, but depressingly closed-minded. "Well," they'd grimace when confronted with a new musical genre or fashion trend, "that's different." My suburb was racially insular, culturally bland and intellectually unstimulating. Its people were knee-jerk conformists. Faced with the prospect of spending my life underemployed, bored and soused, I did what anyone with a bit of ambition would do. I went to college in a big city and stayed there.

Mine is a common story. Every day in America, hundreds of our most talented young men and women flee the suburbs and rural communities for big cities, especially those on the West and East Coasts. Their youthful vigor fuels these metropolises--the cultural capitals of the blue states. These oases of liberal thinking--New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, Boston--are homes to our best-educated people, most vibrant popular culture and most innovative and productive businesses. There are exceptions--some smart people move from cities to the countryside--but the best and brightest gravitate to places where liberalism rules.

Maps showing Kerry's blue states appended to the "United States of Canada" separated from Bush's red "Jesusland" are circulating by email. Though there is a religious component to the election results, the biggest red-blue divide is intellectual. "How can 59,054,087 people be so DUMB?" asked the headline of the Daily Mirror in Great Britain, and the underlying assumption is undeniable. By any objective standard, you had to be spectacularly stupid to support Bush.

72 percent who cast votes for George W. Bush, according to a University of Maryland's Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) and Knowledge Networks poll, believe that Iraq (news - web sites) had weapons of mass destruction or active WMD programs. 75 percent think that a Saddam-Al Qaeda link has been proven, and 20 percent say Saddam ordered 9/11. Of course, none of this was true.

Kerry voters were less than half as idiotic: 26 percent of Democrats bought into Bush-Cheney's WMD lies, and 30 percent into Saddam-Al Qaeda.

Would Bush's supporters have voted for him even if they had known he was a serial liar? Perhaps their hatred of homosexuals and slutty abortion vixens would have prompted them to make the same choice--an idiotic perversion of priorities. As things stand, they cast their ballots relying on assumptions that were demonstrably false.

Educational achievement doesn't necessarily equal intelligence. After all, Bush holds a Harvard MBA. Still, it bears noting that Democrats are better educated than Republicans. You are 25 percent more likely to hold a college degree if you live in the Democratic northeast than in the red state south. Blue state voters are 25 percent more likely, therefore, to understand the historical and cultural ramifications of Bush's brand of bull-in-a-china-shop foreign policy.

Inland Americans face a bigger challenge than coastal "cultural elitists" when it comes to finding high-quality news coverage. The best newspapers, which routinely win prizes for their in-depth local and national reporting and staffers overseas, line the coasts. So do the cable TV networks with the broadest offerings and most independent radio stations. Bush Country makes do with Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity syndicated on one cookie-cutter AM outlet after another. Citizens of the blue states read lackluster dailies stuffed with generic stories cut and pasted from wire services. Given their dismal access to high-quality media, it's a minor miracle that 40 percent of Mississippians turned out for Kerry.

So our guy lost the election. Why shouldn't those of us on the coasts feel superior? We eat better, travel more, dress better, watch cooler movies, earn better salaries, meet more interesting people, listen to better music and know more about what's going on in the world. If you voted for Bush, we accept that we have to share the country with you. We're adjusting to the possibility that there may be more of you than there are of us. But don't demand our respect. You lost it on November 2.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

A Note from Her Majesty, the Queen


Attention all Americans!


In light of your failure to make the correct decision in electing your President, thus showing you to be unfit to govern yourselves, we hereby give you notice of the revocation of your independence effective as of Monday 8Th November 2004.

Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will resume monarchical duties over all states, commonwealths and other territories. Except Utah, which she doesn't much fancy.


Your new Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. Tony Blair M.P., for the 97.85% of you unaware of the outside world, will appoint a Minister for America without the need for further elections. Congress and the Senate will be disbanded. A questionnaire will be circulated in twelve months time to determine if any of you noticed.

To aid your transition into a British Crown Dependency, the following rules are introduced with immediate effect:

1. All citizens are to look up "revocation" in the Oxford English Dictionary. While there, check the pronunciation guide for "aluminium" - this may be surprising for you. Generally attempt to raise your vocabulary to acceptable levels. Look up "vocabulary". Using the same 27 words interspersed with "like" and "you know" is an unacceptable form of communication. Look up interspersed".

2. There is no such thing as "U.S. English". We will let Microsoft know on your behalf.

3. Learn to distinguish British and Australian accents. It's not difficult.

4. Hollywood will henceforth be required to occasionally cast Englishmen as good guys.

5. Re-learn your original anthem, "God Save the Queen". Please ensure that you have complied with the first law before attempting this.


6. Stop playing American "football". There is only one kind of "football". What you refer to as "football" is not a very good game. The 2.15% of you aware of a world outside of your borders may have noticed that no-one else plays it. Play proper football instead; to start with get the girls to help you - it is a difficult game. Those of you brave enough will, eventually, be allowed to play rugby, which is similar to American "football", but does not involve stopping for a rest every twenty seconds or wearing full Kevlar body armour like nancies.

7. Declare war on Quebec and France, using nukes if they give you any merde. The 97.85% of you unaware of the outside world should count yourselves lucky - the Russians have never really been bad guys. "Merde" is French for "sh*t".


8. 4th July is no longer a public holiday. 2nd November will be the new national holiday.

9. American cars are hereby banned. They are crap; it's for your own good. When we show you German cars you'll understand.

10. Please tell us who killed JFK. Its been driving us crazy.



Tuesday, November 23, 2004

He Who Laughs Last ...


I planted some bird seed. A bird came up. Now I don't know what to feed it.

They told me I was gullible ... and I believed them.

Teach a child to be polite and courteous in the home and, when he grows up, he'll never be able to merge his car onto a freeway.


I had amnesia once -- or twice.

Two can live as cheaply as one, for half as long.

Experience is the thing you have left when everything else is gone.

My weight is perfect for my height -- which varies.

I used to be indecisive. Now I'm not sure.


How can there be self-help "groups"?

I went to San Francisco. I found someone's heart. Now what?

Show me a man with both feet firmly on the ground, and I'll show you a man who can't get his pants off.


thanks to Shirley for the humor

Monday, November 22, 2004

A Thanksgiving Prayer


For years, I have sat at my dining room table, with food and friends, ready to begin a thanksgiving feast.

Most of my family say grace at every meal, and so why not also on Thanksgiving??

Since Kathleen and I never say grace, we have reluctantly asked a "gracefull" family member to say a prayer (hopefully of thanks).

What we often get is a prayer which in subtle ways attacks our view of the meaning of life, and is actually something of a put-down.

Sitting with some cousins recently for a meal, I was asked to offer the prayer. I deferred to my cousin Joe. But I swore to myself, that next time I would be prepared = preprayed.

Thanks to Google, I now have a suitable godless prayer, provided by Roger Fritts of the Cedar Lane Unitarian Universalist Church in Bethesda, Maryland:

We gather to celebrate our connections and our love for each other. We greet again those with whom we have shared an important part of our life journey. We remember today those who are not with us -- friends and family who for many reasons cannot be here. Their friendship and love remains part of us in spite of distance and time. We especially remember our family and friends who have died. Their love continues within each of us.

We give thanks to those persons who have labored to create this meal. We give thanks to the work of farmers, truck drivers, grocery clerks and many others whose network of labor has made this meal possible. Because of their work, we can enjoy this wonderful food.

May each of us feel deeply the joy we experience in the smiles, the handshakes and the hugs we exchange today. May we breathe deep the spirit of friendship and family. May these connections sustain us and give us strength. Amen.




Friday, November 05, 2004

Two Americas and Four More Years


The Dream Is Lost

Bush gets mandate for theocracy. Only the right can stop him now.

Yes it's four more years. Kerry snatches defeat from victory.

With so many good issues, how could Kerry lose??

The answer: it's moral values, stupid.

According to the AP wire:

_The president had the support of 78 percent of white evangelicals, 23 percent of the voters.

_Bush won 52 percent of the Roman Catholic vote on Tuesday, and got the support of 56 percent of white Catholics, defeating the first Catholic presidential candidate from a major party since John F. Kennedy. In 2000, Bush narrowly lost the Catholic vote.

_Bush was favored by 61 percent of people from all faiths who attend services weekly; they made up 41 percent of the electorate. Democrat John Kerry drew 62 percent of Americans who never attend worship, but they only accounted for 14 percent of voters.

_When respondents were asked to pick the one issue that mattered most in choosing a president, "moral values" ranked first at 22 percent, surpassing the economy (20 percent), terrorism (19 percent) and Iraq (15 percent).

In the end, the majority of Catholics preferred an anti-abortion, Methodist incumbent to one of their own - underscoring that today's religious divide cuts across denominational lines.

To Frank Newport, the editor in chief of the Gallup Poll, religion was "the untold story of this election." Newport, a sociologist who has written extensively on the role of religious faith in politics, said voters subordinated their concerns about Iraq and the war on terror
"and looked at moral values. But it's more than that. It's just about religion as well." (San Fancisco Chronicle)


bush vs kerry by county

From the county bush/kerry red/blue map (courtesy of the Boston Globe), it's easy to see that the Kerry majorities live in a small slice of America: "The urban and/or educational elite slice". If you throw a dart at a map of the U.S., you are overwhelmingly likely to hit Bush country. Two Americas starting to throw bricks at each other.

A big issue crawling out from under the carpet: abortion rights for women. Four more years of Bush may mean a Supreme Court majority for overturning Roe vs Wade. But there are many ways Bush and his compadres can whittle away at choice for the women of America.


From The Village Voice:

"Mondo Washington
by James Ridgeway
No Choice
The 'culture of life' could become real life
November 4th, 2004 4:35 PM

WASHINGTON—When Bush says, "I've earned capital in this election and I'm going to spend it for what I've told the people I'd spend it on," he's not just talking about revamping the income tax and Social Security. It's payback time for the Christian conservatives who gave him vital votes to win the election and then go on and call the win a mandate. They want cultural changes—what Bush himself calls the "culture of life," and that starts with women's place in society.

The administration already has sought to limit a woman's access to abortion and contraception; to shut up clinics, individuals, and providers of abortion around the world; and to cut funds from women's reproductive health services.

Now it's time for more. Here's a partial listing put together by the Center for Reproductive Rights:

• Get rid of Roe v. Wade through new Supreme Court appointees who think like Thomas and Scalia can knock out the ruling when given the chance. Bush will also fight lawsuits challenging the partial birth abortion law.

• Promote federal statutes and regulations that use the term "unborn child" to describe the fetus—opening the prospect of murder charges against doctors and their staffs engaged in abortions and women who have them.

• Push for enactment of the so-called "Child Custody Protection Act" (CCPA), which would prevent teenagers from crossing state lines to get an abortion, and once enacted, enforce it, the Center says, "with intrusive investigatory techniques such as issuing subpoenas for private medical records, and aggressively prosecuting aunts, grandmothers, religious counselors, and physicians who counsel minors or assist them in obtaining abortions"

• Deny Medicaid funding for abortions

• Place new restrictions on funding abortion in cases of incest, rape, and where a woman's life is at stake

• Restrict access to contraception and push new legislation to withdraw contraception coverage for federal employees (including military personnel)

• Continue to deny over-the-counter status to emergency contraception claiming it amounts to an abortifacient


Minorities have rights too. The progressive minority of America needs to resist (especially in Congress) a new thrust by the religious right to take advantage of this close election. We still need to maintain a sense of proportion and a sense of humor. In that cause:


bad knees will not stop determined voters