Former President George H W Bush Celebrates His 90th Birthday by Jumping Out of a Plane

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Former President and First Lady Bush after the sky-dive he made on his 85th birthday. 

He was a much better president than we knew at the time.

He was a genuine war hero, the president who fought in World War II, an oil man and a former member of Congress/head of the CIA/Vice President.

He was President George H W Bush, and today’s he’s 90 years young.

Former President Bush (or Bush I, as we call him around our house) celebrated his birthday by jumping out of an airplane. Literally.

That ground can get awful hard when it’s coming up at you from a few thousand feet. I don’t know many 90-year-olds who could take the lick involved in a jump like this. But I also know from my elderly relatives that those who live long are tough in way that us wimps can’t fathom. They all have a get-on-with-it, it is what is toughness that allows them to cycle through the infirmities and limitations of advancing age without being vanquished by them.

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That toughness gets put on display every time one of former President Bush’s birthdays rolls around. He’s been celebrating the passing years by jumping out of planes for quite some time now. Former First Lady Barbara Bush is pretty tough herself, to let him do it.

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Former President George H W Bush is rescued after his plane was shot down in combat. 

I would expect no less from the man who survived the getting shot down in combat, losing a child to leukemia and decades of America’s political wars. You’ve got to be made out of cast iron to do all that.

Happy Birthday former President Bush. I hope you have many more.

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Dictators Free Themselves, but They Enslave the People


Charley Chaplin said this at a grim time in history. It was a daring move on his part then, and it still is today. Definitely worth considering what he said then and how things have gone up to now, seventy years down the road.

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Book Review: American Militarism vs the Kingdom of God

Fight To join the discussion about Fight A Christian Case for Nonviolence, or to order a copy, go here

Fight is an ironic name for a book that is a polemic on the Christian call to nonviolence.

The book’s author, Preston Sprinkle, wrote the book in response to and as a conversation with America’s militaristic evangelical community. Even though I have a few problems with some of his interpretations of specific scriptures, I think he’s got a point. In fact, I think he’s dead-on accurate in many of his conclusions.

I remember seeing a video of one of our preachers here in Oklahoma City. This preacher was speaking (I can not regard his speech as a sermon of any sort) to a thoroughly roused-up and enormous congregation. Since the speech was going out over the airwaves, his actual audience was much larger.

This preacher was charging up and down the stage, mike in hand, using all the theatrics at his disposal. He would bend over and lower his voice to make a bottom dropping point at one place, and then straighten up and shout out his next point. It wasn’t a sermon. It was a performance.

And it wasn’t even vaguely Christian.

This man was taking verses out of the Bible to weave a totally fallacious case that somehow or other Jesus supported invading Iraq.

He had his audience in the palm of his hand. After all, most of them came to this particular church because they liked performances for their sermons and because they wanted “christian teaching” that would get them going emotionally while making them feel great about whatever they wanted to do in the first place.

The audience cheered and yelled like they were at a football game.

I haven’t seen many things that disgusted me more than this performance sermon and its clearly heretical mis-use of Holy Scripture to support a war.

I knew, even then, that the whole Iraq invasion was a sham. This was an unnecessary war that we were going into for reasons that had nothing to do with what we were being told. I have never understood why anyone would have had trouble seeing through the excuses for this war.

I also saw that if America’s Christian community did not stop using Christ to justify war, it would eventually destroy itself. People will follow the theological heresy of militarism so long as if feels good. But, as Europe has shown us, bombed out buildings and gas ovens do tend to dim the luster of it.

War is an almost preposterous evil. The Civil War general, William Tecumseh Sherman, the same General Sherman who burned Atlanta and waged war on the civilian population in his infamous march to the sea, said that war is hell.

He was right.

A friend of my husband’s went to view the federal building after the bombing here in Oklahoma City. “That is nothing,” she said as she gazed at the ruins. “Nothing.”

She had lived through war waged on a large scale. She had, in her youth, seen whole cities razed to bombed out hulks, human beings burnt to ash as they hid in their bomb shelters.

We are so soft when horror comes to us. We can not bear our losses, cannot abide our pain. But we treat war itself, which is savagery writ unimaginable, as if it was a computer game. Maybe we do that because we can switch our wars off in the same way that we switch off computer games.

There is very little reportage of what is happening on the perpetual warfront that America has embarked on. We bomb and slay without the rest of us here at home knowing about it. Our best hint of what is happening is when we see our own soldiers, returning to us with shattered bodies and — often — shattered minds.

Something ugly is out there on the other side of the endless rambles of the talking heads debating their endless gaffe reporting about what some politician said to a friend in an elevator or mumbled under his or her breath when he or she thought the mike was off. Something really ugly is out there, but we can’t see it, don’t know about it.

Our only real intimation is that we hear constantly about our national debt. We are told that the cause of this debt is us. It’s Social Security and Medicare. It’s the public schools. The whole debt and economic malaise of this country is the fault of those who pay the bills: The American people. No one mentions, no one even whispers, that we are funding a war colossus that asks for more, more, more ever single year and has been doing so since World War II.

We never talk about that 800 lb gorilla sitting in the middle of the room eating all the bananas. Such talk would be unpatriotic. It would mean that we don’t want to “defend ourselves” against all those people out there “who want to kill us.”

Militarism is a false idol. It is also, according to the author of Fight, anti-Scriptural and anti-Christian.

Fight takes the reader on a survey of the Scriptures from the viewpoint of looking at God’s teachings about war and militarism. Notice that militarism is a category that is distinct from war. One is an action of government-sponsored violence. The other is an outlook, a belief in war itself. It is an idol.

A large part of what Mr Sprinkle writes about the Old Testament necessarily focuses on discerning what God meant, rather than what He said. This is important to all Christians because the Old Testament seems in many ways to challenge the New Testament. Western Civilization is at its best when it is responding to the clear teachings of the New Testament, and at its worst when it looks for excuses for its murderous impulses in the Old Testament.

How are Christians meant to understand the seeming contradictions in attitude between the two covenants?

Mr Sprinkle does a fine job of presenting his answer to this, at least so far as it concerns war and war making. Fight is a well-written, well-researched presentation of his viewpoint concerning violence, war and the call of all Christians to follow Christ, even to the cross.

I don’t honestly know what I think about some of the points he makes. I need to think them through first before I can say. But I do think the book is a good read that opens a debate American Christians need to have.

I do not want to see Christians in this country fall into the trap that Christians fell into in Nazi Germany of supporting militarism right down to the pit of hell.

I am not and never have been a pacifist. I believe in self defense. That would seem to put me outside the ideal Mr Sprinkle is advocating. However, I cannot deny that his presentation is compelling.

My main interest in his book is that it starts a needful conversation. I remember that preacher charging around the stage, preaching what was clearly the heresy of militarism to a cheering crowd. I see this country edging ever closer to economic ruin while we feed our resources into the maw of a war machine. And I know that we must change or die.

 

 

Dorothy Day: The Woman Who Loved Much

Her sins–and they are many–have been forgiven, so she has loved much. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.  Luke 7:47

Dorothy Day sets off controversy, even after her death.

She followed Christ as He called her, often to the discomfort and dismay of other Christians who sought a less radical Way. Does that sound familiar? If you spend much time reading biographies of the saints, it should.

The saints weren’t often people’s people. They were too busy being God’s people. The saints are also often converted sinners who had fallen into the muck and mire of their times and taken a good bath there. It seems that God often makes His saints from the worst sinners. It’s as if He can do the most with these edgy people from the pits of life; people who know that evil is real and who see by contrast that God and His love are the only solution to the evil they have known.

Dorothy Day was a converted sinner. She took her turn at living life in the fast lane of the early 20th Century. She ran with the crowd and followed its ways up to and including having an abortion. Then, as people have been doing for 2,000 years, she found Jesus, or, I would imagine, she let Him find her. And that made all the difference.

Dorothy Day lived her life for Christ after that. She founded a ministry to the poor called Catholic Worker Houses. She published a great deal in support of this ministry and did not step back from the requirement of living alongside the people she was trying to help.

Her wary attitude towards government and stubborn pacifism did not always sit well with people in the depression-ridden, war-bound years of the 1930s and 40s. It found even less support during the Cold War years that followed. I suspect Dorothy Day seemed an embarrassment, an unrealistic fanatic, to a good many of the good, church-going people of her day.

It is only now that she begins to make sense. Corporatism is beginning to take a deep toll on the lives of Americans. We have morphed into a country that is continuously at war with an ever-changing cast of enemies.  The over-weaning power of government has begun to focus on active legal persecution of the Church itself. These are our times. It appears that Dorothy Day, the uncomfortable convert, is beginning to seem less like a nutty fanatic and more like a prophet for our days.

It is in that prophetic role that she continues to set off controversy. Her life is a flashpoint of disagreement for a lot of people today, just as it was in the past. Some people try to cast Dorothy Day as “their” saint, as an apologist for their personal politics. Other people attempt to disregard her and disown her because they see her life as an attack on their personal politics.

But if Dorothy Day was a living saint, then neither of these reactions apply. Saints live their lives in the service of God, not partisan politics. They don’t try to be popular with people. They set their sights on the narrow way and they walk it all the way home.

The American bishops recently cast a unanimous vote in support of the cause of declaring Dorothy Day a saint. There are a lot of potholes in the road ahead of them in this cause. Most saints are undeclared and unofficial. That’s because, hard as it is to be one, it’s even harder to be officially declared one.

For myself, I have no doubt that Dorothy Day is in heaven. I have no doubt that she lived her life for Jesus and that she was a woman of great courage. Dorothy Day was one of God’s warriors in the battle for life and human dignity. Despite, or maybe because, of her rough beginning, she was one of His best works.

Deacon Greg Kandra, who blogs at The Deacon’s Bench, has an interesting article about the new push by American bishops for the cause of sainthood for Dorothy Day.  It reads in part:

Dolan on Day: “I’m convinced she is a saint for our time”
November 27, 2012 By Deacon Greg Kandra

The New York Times takes a look at the latest efforts to promote the sainthood cause of Dorothy Day:
Dorothy Day is a hero of the Catholic left, a fiery 20th-century social activist who protested war, supported labor strikes and lived voluntarily in poverty as she cared for the needy.
But Day has found a seemingly unlikely champion in New York’s conservative archbishop, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, who has breathed new life into an effort to declare the Brooklyn native a saint.
Cardinal Dolan has embraced her cause with striking zeal: speaking on the anniversaries of her birth and death, distributing Dorothy Day prayer cards to parishes and even buying roughly 100 copies of her biography to give out last year as Christmas gifts to civic officials including Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.
This month, at Cardinal Dolan’s recommendation, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops voted unanimously to move forward with her canonization cause, even though, as some of the bishops noted, she had an abortion as a young woman and at one point flirted with joining the Communist Party.
“I am convinced she is a saint for our time,” Cardinal Dolan said at the bishops’ meeting. She exemplifies, he said, “what’s best in Catholic life, that ability we have to be ‘both-and’ not ‘either-or.’ ”
As someone who was both committed to social justice and loyal to church teachings, Day bridges wings of the contemporary church in a way that few American Catholic figures can.
Day, born in 1897 to a nonobservant Protestant family, dropped out of the University of Illinois and moved to New York to work as a journalist for leftist publications in the bohemian literary world of downtown Manhattan. She converted to Catholicism in 1927, citing a spiritual awakening that was accelerated by the joy that she felt upon the birth of a daughter, Tamar. She said she chose Catholicism for many reasons — partly because it was the religion of so many of the workers and poor people whose cause she fought for as a socialist writer, and partly because she had lived in Chicago with Catholic roommates whose faith had deeply impressed her.
She spent decades as a passionate lay Catholic, devoting her life to the principles of social justice, including pacifism and service to the poor, that she felt were at the root of her religion’s teachings.
Though she was traditional in her religious practices and strong in her love for the church, her relationship with the church hierarchy in her lifetime was not always smooth. Not a single Catholic bishop came to her funeral in 1980, according to Robert Ellsberg, the editor of her letters and diaries. (Read more here.)


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