June 29, 2020

Like blind dates, extraterrestrials can be such jerks. Two British astrophysicists at the University of Nottingham, England, Tom Westby and Christopher J. Conselice, recently sifted their way through the Milky Way and discovered, they estimate, no more than 36 alien civilizations are presently capable of electromagnetic (radio) communication. They do admit that if they had sorted things from a slightly different direction the number might get raised to a bit under a thousand. Chintzy isn’t the word for it, compared to the… Read more

February 28, 2020

Father Richard John Neuhaus (1936-2009) In 2007 I and my wife were having dinner with Richard Neuhaus. He had spoken the night before at a dinner at Immanuel Lutheran Church, at 88th and Lexington.  The dinner marked my retirement after seventeen years as editor of Forum Letter, an independent Lutheran publication that he had edited for sixteen years before nominating me as his successor. That is how I met him.  I found Forum Letter as a 1976 first-year Lutheran seminarian… Read more

February 20, 2020

A diabetic insulin reaction – low blood-sugar – induced a waking dream some nights ago. I was only was half-awake, perhaps half unconsciousness. I felt gauzy, detached; chimerical even. I was not uncomfortable. That was the problem. An insulin reaction usually is very uncomfortable until under control. I wondered why this one felt so different. Blood-sugar reactions will typically send me and any other still-living diabetic into a panicked search for the nearest stash of carbohydrates. A carbohydrate infusion –… Read more

February 7, 2020

I’ve recently watched a few reruns of the Doomsday Preppers episodes from National Geographic, seven years old now. The coronavirus brought the series back to mind. The 1918 flu pandemic killed perhaps 1% of those infected, resulting worldwide in about 50 to 100 million deaths (3% to 6% of world’s population then); 675,000 Americans were among them. U.S. life expectancy dropped by 12 years during the year of the pandemic. The new virus’ mortality may be about 2 to 3… Read more

January 29, 2020

Within four years of Roe v. Wade, at least two science fiction writers touched on pro-life themes, favorably and with some boldness. “The Pre-Persons” by Philip K. Dick (d. 1981) is a chillingly blunt story, a direct rebuke of Roe v. Wade. The second, by Larry Niven, now 81, took the pro-life question on the oblique. “Assimilating Our Culture, That’s What They’re Doing” involves an icky-icky-ew-ew factor, upsetting for the squeamish, but it entails a profitable use for partial clones… Read more

October 21, 2019

Brian Carroll of California is the American Solidarity Party nominee for the 2020 presidential election. Mr. Carroll got the nod from the party’s eligible voters using Survey Monkey last September 9, sometime after which [self-disclosure] I was surprised to find I had accepted the position of (temporary) treasurer for his campaign. Okay, I’m sometimes impulsive. But let’s see: Brian Carroll? Yeah, I didn’t know who he is either. But that’s my fault. A good deal of the business of the… Read more

September 12, 2019

A year ago one October Saturday, my wife and I were at Good Shepherd Catholic Church, in Alexandria, Virginia, which is a hop, skip and a couple turns from George Washington’s Mt. Vernon estate. It is a parish of the Arlington diocese. We were there for our nephew’s Confirmation and I was his sponsor (poor kid). He had thought of asking his older brother—mostly, he said, because his off-to-college brother (jab, jab) hadn’t been to Mass in a while. But since this… Read more

August 27, 2019

“The Senate is no longer a place for any decent man,” mourned Senator Henry Clay, January 1837. This was his judgment following a Senate vote rescinding a senatorial censure of President Andrew Jackson. Clay appeared in the Senate dressed in the deep black then affected by grieving loved ones over the loss of someone dear. This all turned on Jackson’s veto of a bill renewing the charter of the Bank of the United States (think of an early Federal Reserve… Read more

July 29, 2019

There is a Facebook page I follow, Things They Didn’t Teach Us in Seminary! There are a lot of United Church of Christ, Presbyterian, Methodist, Lutheran, a few former Catholics, as well as some others I haven’t doped out. Me, I’m ex-Lutheran pastor come home to Rome, yet I still remember lots and lots of stuff I never learned. This was the topic: A pastor distributing communion at a conference gathering found himself confronted with a woman and her service… Read more

July 11, 2019

James J. O’Donnell’s Pagans: The End of Traditional Religion and the Rise of Christianity (2015) is not a silly book, but it is superficial. O’Donnell is said to have written a contrarian book on pagans and early Christians. We’ll see. He does well describing the nature of traditional religion as Christianity (oddball and very non-traditional) arose in all its varied forms in its first three centuries to challenge traditional Roman religion. What is amazing to me, now that I’ve brought… Read more

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