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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Manger, the Cross, or the Tomb?

I am looking ahead to Sunday; like preachers everywhere I feel the pressure of the Resurrection Sunday sermon.  It’s a big deal.  So I’m looking at the text from John 20: 1- 8.  And the first thing that strikes me as I read it today is “the tomb”: seven times in this short little pericope and not one mention of the cross.  It’s a small thing.  I know that.  It’s a small thing, but it’s very important. The gospel of John does mention the cross in earlier verses-but the cross is not the important thing.

 “In the Eastern Church, indeed, is wont to gather about the manger, feeling the incarnation to be central; and the Western Church lingers upon Calvary, taking the cross as its symbol, and finding in God’s sacrifice for us in Christ its chief inspiration and compulsion.  But the N.T. itself keeps exalting first of all, most of all, last of all, in the empty grave, finding in that the proofs of Jesus’ victory and that God  is really over all, and that evil and sin, impregnable and ineradicable though they seem, are beaten and doomed.  And if we do not press on there, that is at best to believe a gallant tale that may indeed shame us somewhat out of what we are, even be able to constrain us toward better things, but it is not the gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (Gossip 789-790).

As I think about our worship service on Resurrection Sunday, I’m also thinking about what hymns and songs we will sing. Yet as I look through our hymnal-The Salvation Army songbook has an obvious disparity between songs about the Manger, the Cross, and the Tomb.  We have 22 songs in our songbook about the Birth of Jesus, and 36 about the “atoning work” – that is-the cross, and only 15 about the resurrection and ascension – the Tomb. [i]

Gossip, Arthur John. “The Gospel According to St. John: Exposition” in Luke; John Volume 8 of The Interpreter’s Bible. Nashville. Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, 1952.

[i]  We expect a revised, updated version of our songbook very soon – this summer maybe… Will we see this mistaken emphasis corrected?

A Haiku – March 31, 2015

soon a full moon
silver light on new grass
but I am waning 

Newton Alley

Power-lines and transformers in the alleyway.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Dealing with Disloyalty within The Salvation Army

Many things have changed in The Salvation Army since it began in 1865 but, as the expression goes, plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.  I have been reading A Man of Peace in a World at War–a biography of The Salvation Army’s fifth general, George Carpenter and it occurs to me that one of the things that has not really changed very much in all those years is the autocratic nature of our leadership.

Carpenter confronted this dealing with General Bramwell Booth (son of the founders, and second general).  Then (in the 1920s) the issue was of Bramwell’s preferential treatment of his children within the army, and his inability to receive constructive criticism without taking offense.  (Some of those problems are dealt with in General John Larsson’s book 1929: A Crisis that Shaped The Salvation Army’s Future.) 

A letter from Carpenter to Bramwell Booth is quoted in the biography:

“The Army is perhaps the last great public body to remain under autocratic government.  In most civilized lands a man may speak openly as he feels concerning public affairs and rulers-from King, President, Prime Minister down.  And so long as he avoids libel no one may penalize him for so doing.  Within the Army there is a settled belief that one may be a Salvationist of unimpeachable devotion, of ability and godliness.  But should he or she express views out of accord with the General…he or she is accounted disloyal and is in consequence discredited.  This has a most unwholesome influence and produces an evil of secret disaffection much more to be feared in its present and ultimate effects than outward disloyalty. (Carpenter 160)”

The crisis of 1929 resulted in a change in the way that one becomes the General of The Salvation Army – but it did not change the autocratic style of leadership within our ranks. Officers and soldiers are still expected to salute and follow without question or comment.   Dissenting opinions are not tolerated. Officers who have opinions that are at variance to those held by our leaders at HQ are labeled as trouble makers, as heretics, as divisive.  I know of officers who have been told to “seek other employment” merely because they endorse the inclusion of LGBTQI individuals within our ranks.  I, myself, have been told, on more than one occasion, that if I hate the Army so much then I should leave –because I’ve had the temerity to interpret our doctrinal statements differently than some other officers.    

How did General Bramwell Booth respond to (then) Colonel Carpenter’s letter? 

“My Dear Carpenter,
Your letter, which is a bomb! needs consideration before I see you.  But let me say at once that your difficulties (if that is the right word) are really moonshine. (Carpenter 161)”

Colonel Carpenter was then transferred from his appointment at International headquarters to Australia.  Even though a memo went out instructing officers that no one was to attend Carpenter’s departure several Commissioners, senior officers, and employees gathered to bid him farewell. (163)

Punishment appointments and sudden transfers based on personal enmity?  These things don’t still happen, right?  Yeah, right.

Carpenter, Stella.  A Man of Peace in a World at War. Australia. Privately published. 1993.


Biblical Limericks: Hold the Salt, Please…

Some verses cause me to perspire,
for they sound so awfully dire;
sometimes Jesus is dark-
take this statement in Mark,
“Everyone will be salted with fire!”

Mark 9:49

Does it relate to Leviticus 2: 13 perhaps?

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Spanish Moss at Night

Not long ago, my family took a trip down to Orlando, Florida for spring break.  I took a lot of photos while we were there; this is one of them.  I took this one during an evening stroll with my wife.

Curiously - Spanish Moss isn't actually a moss.  It's a flowering plant - absorbing water and nutrients from the air and rainfall.

My Pretty Wife

We had one of those rare opportunities to get dressed up and go out last night.  She looked good. Yes, she did.

Background Images for Everyone - 2015 - Week 14

Here you we go again - this week's free background image.  It's free to you to download and to use how and where you will.  I only ask that you share it freely and that you tell others that you found it here.

 photo Week 14_zpsfmkbzxdc.jpg

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Flesh and Blood

Biblical Limericks: Punch the Prophet Or Else!

Said the prophet to the man, “Strike me.”
Said the man, “I won’t, for I like thee.”
Said the seer, “A lion
will kill you, no lyin’.”
Do pastors preach from this?  Not likely.

1 Kings 20: 35 - 36

Friday, March 27, 2015

Rejoice and Sin!

I found this hymnal ("a hymnal for all services with accent on youth") tucked away in the darkened corners of one of our church closets.

Thursday, March 26, 2015


Who Is the Little Horn? A Note from Dr. Tarrec

My friend, Dr. Tarrec, did something very strange today.  He left his home, which he almost never does, to slip the following scrap of writing into my mailbox.


Who is the horn that is making war upon the saints?  Who is this horn sitting in a position of power, and why does he hate us?  He confuses himself with the whole, his opinion with the creed, his power with grace.  And he takes it out on those who surround him.  With enmity, hostility, and persecution.  And this, he has convinced himself, is God’s noble will. 

Like a beast with the smell of blood in his nose, the little horn demands attention, demands respect and salutes.  The little horn insists upon decorum and loyalty. He breathes out threats and ultimatums.  A pastor, a leader, a wolf.  A beast enjoying respect proportionate to his rank.  He has eyes – many of them, scattered across his domain.  But he is blind, as blind as any who will not see.  He has a mouth like a man, but he speaks like a worm.

“Halt!” he cries, “This far and no further!”  This ordained prince, this commissioned Machiavelli rules the winds.  But he cannot stop the progress of the saints.  He is absurd.  He waxes exceeding great, but he is a fool. 

He prospers. Yes.  He wins.  The saints are martyred, the heads are chopped.  But two more rise up behind. One saint speaks to another and to another.  How long shall this vision prevail?  Not long. How long? Not long.

For Us

The crowd,
holding branches,
shouted, “Hosanna! Blessed
is the one who comes from the Lord
for us.”

This is my first attempt at writing a Cinquain.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

An Interview with John the Apocalyptic Schizophrenic -Part 2

The trail of blood through the centuries is an unerring and infallible mark of their activity.  It covers a period of six thousand years of history.  Metatron, aided by Melancthon, have traced a $500,000 wire transfer from the bank of Commercial Finance in Geneva, Switzerland.  They are contending against a massive organization of terrorist operatives within the Mainstream Media.  Religious, or more accurately, Irreligious persecutions in Tunisia and England are linked by this same trail of blood money.  These are acts of terror and tiresome lectures, a satanic sign in this contemporary dark age.  Look for the Ankh sign in her face-an ankh cross symbolizing sexual intercourse.  The mainstream media does not see the evil here.  They are blind. Oblivious.

The Second Amendment was granted to us by God.  I have, you have, we have a God given right to bear arms.  The amendment is divinely inspired-inerrant and infallible.  An inalienable right, and not for illegal aliens, sneaking into this country to steal our jobs and our women.  You are an enemy under an umbrella, kicking me in the teeth.

There are machines that can help you to meet attractive women, sensual women.  There’s music and they sing…it’s great. You’ll love it.  I’m not a poet.  I write in FORTRAN. I compose in Cobol.  What was she wearing?  She wears the sun and the moon.  She is clothed in the sky.  She hides in the desert where she imagines that she is secure.  The machine pursue her.  It is now or never, close upon the point of no return. Your world is on fire.  Your world is on fire. Can you see what is happening to her?  It is a disaster.  The whole world is on fire.  This is why she flees: she is soft and beautiful. She is brittle.

The prophet-the TRUE prophet- is honored to be mocked on the internet.  He has a feeling.  He has an intuitive appreciation of these things.  Korean pop stars are completely unable to answer the questions that he asks.  The AntiChrist will stand trial in a US court – but not today.  Today is he being held back by the prophets Enoch and Elijah. 

MONDAY: And these signs shall follow them that believe; in my name shall they cast out lawyers and other devils; they shall speak with new patronizing tongues.  They shall take up serpents.  They shall swallow swords and snakes, and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover. 

Interviewer: Do you believe this?
John: Should I?  Dr. Domitian says that he’s been bitten, that he’s survived over 446 snakebites…but no. I don’t think I believe him.  There’s death in the box.  Painful death and long lasting tissue damage.
Interviewer: So you don’t believe it?
John: No.  I think Dr. Domitian has been lying to me.  He lies.  I don’t trust him.

TUESDAY: The flood did not kill all living things.  The deluge that missed some of the Nephilim.  Did they cling to the sides of the Ark?  Did they escape on an ark of their own construction? 

The Great Mother, Babylon, came in remembrance before the Lord God, an apostate, rebellious woman in purple and scarlet.  Myriads of precious stones were scattered at her feet, silver strands were spun into her hair, and flakes of gold drifted through the air.  Despite this, the price of Gold on the worldwide market is in decline.  She is the mother of harlots, drunken with billions of dollars in blood money disguised as foreign aid.

This is a cause of wonder to John.  He cannot understand it.  It is beyond him.  He is astonished, for the angels said nothing to him about her.  Why wouldn’t they tell him?  Did they forget?  Or were they hiding her from him.  And if so, what else were they keeping secret.  He trusted them.  They were his friends.  No one else would visit him, talk to him like they did.  And now he discovers that they’re keeping secrets! Lying to him! Misleading him!

The beast that he saw was and is not swimming up from the bottomless abyss into perdition.  This world is hell.  When that lizard breaches the surface and steps one scaly foot upon dry land, he is setting foot into hell.  And here in hell, this hell, there are seven hills and seven kings.

Interviewer: What does that mean?  Seven hills and seven kings?
John: I don’t know.  They told us about it at school, something about Rome?  There was a dictator, a triumvirate, and an empire.  Oh, and the pope. Right? 
Interviewer: I don’t know. You tell me, John.  That’s why we’re here.
John: Overthrow the government is always money in the bank.
Interviewer: What?
John: Money in the bank. But I’m broke.

WEDNESDAY: The UFO was an abandoned Russian satellite.  Its booster rockets failed to fire and it dropped out of orbit, crashing into the Pacific Ocean sometime early this morning.  I’m seeking a presidential order to have all the pertinent surveillance systems audited for errors and malfeasance.  I just need one hour, one hour of power with the Beast.  The Kingdoms of Europe have already given their unanimous support for this investigation.  Why won’t the president drop the pretense and let us know what is going on?  They shall hate the harlot and make her desolate and naked and eat her flesh and burn her with fire.  Is one hour too much to ask before all of this? 

When the gods wish to punish us they answer our prayers. The list of possible targets is disturbing.  Air Force patrols have been placed on high alert.  Unidentified planes (not to mention UFOs) will be shot down without warning or hesitation. 

Make war with the Lamb.  Make war with Cuba and Puerto Rico.  But for God’s sake, try to appear impartial.  Make the Whore desolate, strip her naked, and leave her abandoned on an inflatable life boat on the waves of the Pacific, drifting aimlessly without food or fresh water, but don’t take sides against the family.  Don’t disparage the country.  Never, on any consideration, oppose the interests of this great organization.

Tortured and depleted uranium fuel rods are inadmissible.  We will burn her with fire, with Thorium. Thorium glows blue when it is superheated.  Widespread panic and chaos, darkness and corruption-this is the theology of the end of days.   Relics of prophecy, discarded remnants of the reformation.  Her virtue is weak, yet she is convinced of her invincible righteousness. She retains in her barely covered bosom a desire for ecclesiastical worship-the prick of the little horn and she bleeds.  She bleeds, but she will burn. 

THURSDAY: Her Spiritualism is astonishing.  The real people of the world are astonished, but it is her elemental power.  She calls upon the wind, the water; she calls upon scorched earth and fire-the fire that will eventually consume her.  We have intercepted cellular calls between her and her agents in Kuwait.  All available American carriers are already on route to the Gulf of Suez. But put substance over shadow and you will drive out the counterfeit sheep.  She is clothed in ribbon and wires found in dungeons of stake and blood.  She wears the Pope’s tiara.  She wears the number 666, and she wears it with pride.  It is not the number of a man, it is her number.  She was offered the hereditary government of Egypt and Syria, from the Gulf of Suez to the Lake of Tiberius.  The Ottoman fleet is returned to safe harbor.  And where is the Sultan’s independence? GONE! Who has the Ottoman Empire in her smooth hands?  Her well-manicured nails are already tracking down our spine.   

Make a note of these judgments: the events that will transpire under the thunder of the sixth trumpet.  Call Anastasia. Ask her if you doubt, but make note of these judgments.

The worship of devils-all demons and dead men deified-will be brought into the light.  Idols of silver, statues of gold and brass, little gods carved of wood, and stone, and water, all of them exposed to the sun.  Wars need to be declared in public if they are to be legal wars.  No jus in bello in the dark, in secret.  Murders, sorceries, pretend miracles, fornications and thefts – this is not at all humorous.  We are not laughing.  Manifest Destiny was an undeclared war trumpeted in every newspaper from coast to coast.  Hordes of Saracens and Turks were loosed upon the world as a scourge and punishment are nothing compared to what we deserve.  Men suffered but we do not yet know the lesson thereof.

I’ve been following the angle of prophecy, but I think that I’m lost.  I stumbled somewhere in Daniel’s 70 weeks.  The little horn, tin horn dictator shouting in my ear, “And some of them of understanding shall fall. To try them, and purge them and make them white, even to the time of the end.”  The Red Mass appears here. I’m white with fear. Bloodless. Pale. I’m white, not clean.

Interviewer: Tell me about the year A.D. 1798.
John: What can I say?
Interviewer: I don’t know, John.  What can you say?
John: The year 1798 started on a Monday… by the Gregorian calendar, anyway.  It was a Friday by the Julian calendar, but I don’t think that means anything.
Interviewer: Anything else?
John: I think that was the year that Saint Helveticus hid from the French in Geneva and Napoleon defeated the Ottomans near the Pyramids.  I can’t tell if that was a good year for the French or not.

It has been said by those who have examined French records that France is one of the ten horns that gave their power and strength to the beast, filling France with bloody carnage and horror.  Well supplied infidels and survivalists with guns have barricaded themselves within their Iowa farmsteads.  They are making graves for themselves and for our children.  They are bringing down the wrath of man, employing wicked men to tarnish the glory of God.

Behold!  Let the third woe come quickly.  The fearful second woe has passed, but we cannot long endure the sounding of the trumpets, neither can we withstand the flash and bang of flash-bang grenades with light seven times brighter than the sun.

John: Did I tell you that the prince of hell, Satan himself, is fully aware of his failure? 
Interviewer: How do you know this? 
John: Because I’m him.
John: It’s me. I’m him.  I’ve read the owner’s manual. I’ve read the ending; I know how this all turns out.  I am trapped in a corner, raging against the heavenly foes arrayed against me.  I know the mystery of iniquity.  I know how to pretend and prevaricate.  I am God- this is what I will tell you.  I am the mongrel son of perdition.  I was conceived in sin. I live in the hidden recesses of the wind. I was spewed out of the serpent’s mouth, born of deluge of water and foul spirits.

I have no children. And God! if that isn’t a relief.  They, the children I don’t have, won’t inherit this curse.  My brother, though, will take the throne, sending his ambassadors out and presuming to call himself the new sovereign. 

Did you know that a prophetic year is only 360 days? The other five days - those missing days are stampeded by an innumerable horde of horses ridden by Turkish warriors the color of fire, the color of jacinth, the color of brimstone-that is sulfur.  Red. Blue. Yellow with a star in the center of their heads.  The riders discharge their firearms from horseback in a cloud of smoke. The artillery of Mahomet.  I remember Goths, the Huns, the Avars, Persians, Bulgarians, Saracens, and Russians, Turks, and Kazakhs.  They were all reduced to rubble and rune by the cannons, hostile violence, the sound of musketry, the smell of blackpowder smoke, collapsing towers mixed with blood.

Interviewer: Tell me more about the angels that visit you.  Do you see the Archangel, Michael?
John: Just the once.
Interviewer: Gabriel?
John: No.
Interviewer: How about Raphael, Uriel, Raguel, Remeil, or Saraqael?  … Why are you looking at me like that?  I read.  I know things.
John: No.  I’ve never met any of them.
Interviewer: Which angels have you met?
John: Phenanthrene, Chrysene, the Twins: Pyrene and Benzopyrene, and Ovalene.
Interviewer: Ovaltine?
John: Ovalene.  He has orange hair and likes deep-sea diving.  He swims down around the hydrothermal vents.  Chrysene dresses in gold and always smells like pine.  The Twins smoke incessantly.  And Phenanthrene is nearly insoluble in water.
Interviewer: Nearly?
John: Nearly insoluble.

I once saw 240,000 meteors falling above the horizon of Boston.  The firmament descending in fire and hail mixed with blood.  Never did rain fall so thick, never a snowstorm so dense as these stones from space.  I lay on the ground, prostrate, speechless.  How was it formed? Of what was it composed?

I have no weapon against idolatry.  No cannon. No rocket. No sword.  I can only write, making scribbles on scraps of loose paper that I lose in my pockets. Illegible. I am unarmed. Powerless.

Environmental Science / Creation Story Survey

Friends, I need your help.   I am currently enrolled in an environmental science class at my local community college.  As part of a project for this class I have designed the following survey.  If you have a few moments would you consider answer the six brief questions?  Thank you.

If, for whatever reason, the embedded version of the survey below is not working for you click here.

Again, thank you very much. When I have the results collected, analysed and graphed, I'll post my report. Thanks.


after collecting responses and analyzing the data I completed my project and presented the results to the class.  You can find it here.

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey , the world's leading questionnaire tool.

Biblical Limericks: Sea Monster, Egypt, or Whore?

When speaking of Rahab, do you mean
the sea monster beneath waters green,
which sometimes symbolized
Egypt uncivilized,
or the harlot whose past was obscene?

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Never on any Consideration Oppose the Interests of The Salvation Army

I have just begun reading a biography of the fifth general of The Salvation Army, General George Carpenter.  I’m not very far into it just yet.  Young George has just signed his “Articles of War” which the author describes as “a creed, a promise to abstain from the use of all intoxicating liquor, bad language, dishonesty, and a solemn promise to obey the lawful orders of Officers and never on any consideration to oppose the interests of The Salvation Army. (Carpenter 35)”

We could quibble over the issue of drinking, and what constitutes “bad language” but it’s that final clause that really jumps out at me: to “never on any consideration…oppose the interests of The Salvation Army.”

I don’t really know what that means.  It sounds an awful lot like what Michael said to Fredo in the Godfather.

The Salvation Army, like every other human institution, has had its share of scandal. Is it in the Army’s interest to keep quiet - to not "air our dirty laundry in public," so as to maintain our good reputation and the trust our donors place in us, or is it in the Army’s best interest to bring these things to light? The leadership of the Army sometimes make bad decisions. I know that they "bathe their decisions in prayer" and that they're "guided by the Holy Spirit" and yada, yada, yada.... But sometimes they screw up.  Sometimes, despite all the piety, they make bad decisions.  Is it in the Army’s interest for officers and soldiers to obediently salute and follow these "lawful orders", or to tactfully and respectfully oppose them – even to the point of disobedience?

Please note – I am writing about generalities here.  I have nothing specific in mind – only hypothetical abstractions. 

But where is the line between obedience of orders and (to use Salvation Army in America’s current branding slogan) “doing the most good? Sometimes those things don’t line up exactly.

The language of the Articles of War (Soldier’s Covenant) has changed somewhat in the years since the then-future general George Carpenter signed his oath; the current version no longer contains that troubling phrase.  The current version reads: “I will be true to the principles and practices of The Salvation Army, loyal to its leaders, and I will show the spirit of salvationism whether in times of popularity or persecution.”

But the question is still in there.  Loyalty to our leaders may not always be true to the principles and practices of The Salvation Army.  What is a soldier or an officer to do?

Carpenter, Stella.  A Man of Peace in a World at War. Australia, Privately Published. 1993.


My friend Bill is married to Jenny,
what is more, he married again-y
and the second wife’s name
is exactly the same:
it’s a true case of Polygyny.

An Interview with John the Apocalyptic Schizophrenic

John: I’ve been hearing them again, in my head, at night, every night.  The voices. The Satanic voices.  Dr. Domitian gave me pills and the voices went away, and I could sleep.  The voices were keeping me awake, but the pills let me sleep.

Interviewer: Why did you stop taking the pills?

John: The pills made the demons keep quiet but all the while I was taking the pills the angels stopped visiting me, and I was lonely without them. See…I don’t believe in hypnotism, but this hypnotist’s crystal allows me to see people.  When look through this crystal I can see you; I can really see you.  The You that you can’t even see.  I can see You.  I can see if you’re a good person or not.  I can see if you’re a bad person pretending or if you’re just bad at pretending.

The elders are calling to me.  Greybeards and white hair.  I want to think that I can trust them. I want to believe that they have some sort of long acquired wisdom, knowledge of secret things, old hidden things forgotten by the rest of the world.  But I don’t trust them.  I think that they’re lying to me about something.  It’s the elders who take away the medication.  They took the pills when I stopped taking them.  But now they’re demanding an explanation.  “Why have you stopped taking the pills?”  I told them the same thing that I’m telling you:  the archangels came and talked to me and I missed them while I was taking the pills.  I’m lonely without them, so damn lonely. 

I travel alone.  I ride the bus alone, except for the angels.  Dr. Domitian tells me that they’re an illusion.  He says that the angels that visit me are just illusions.  Like time.  Time is an illusion.  Everything’s an illusion.  I’m not sure that we’re really here, living on this planet, trying to be good.  What is good?  All I have are these illusions of goodness that lack context and matrix.  All I have are these questions and counter-questions. Is it lawful?  Is it awful?  I’m a hostage to fears-but not my fears. I’m a hostage to someone else’s fears, to everyone else’s fears.  I’m afraid of everything and everyone.

When the end of the world began it began in silence, unobserved, without fanfare.  It didn’t begin in the halls of power in Washington D.C. or in smoke filled rooms at the Pentagon.  The end of all things did not begin in the secret corridors of the Kremlin.  Neither was it beneath the vaulted, painted ceilings of the Vatican, nor was it in the narrow streets of Jerusalem.  The End of the World began in-of all places-Des Moines, Iowa.


The dragon woke slowly; four thousand years of sleep weighed heavily upon him but now he was awake again.  His thick, hemocyanic blood pumped through his veins and arteries.  He opened his eyes and began swimming for the surface.  His tail, as long as some trees are tall, swept back and forth, propelling him toward the light above.  Great humpbacked whales, for millennia the benevolent rulers of the abyss, saw his ascent and trembled.  Their cetaceous songs became long, deep keening wails of terror. 

The human inhabitants of the planet-living on less than a quarter of the globe, smug and self-satisfied, did not understand the change in the song.  Neither would they have acknowledged them even if they had understood.  The flattered themselves into believing that they ruled and subdued the earth, that they filled it with teeming good things.  But the Beast from the Sea would teach them.
Dr. Domitian stood at the edge of the water, laughing.  Be careful-this is open to dangerous misreading.  Even as they read the letter they are under his sword, but they do not repent.  They still have not learned; the process must, MUST, continue. The pogroms in Poland, the Inquisition in Spain, the massing armies in Manchuria-these are the things that consume and drive him.  He does them with power, with power and great relish.

The enemy, that ancient serpent, the Beast from the Sea, emerges from the deep, planting his clawed feet upon the dry sand. Rivulets of water stream down his armored scales.  He snorts, blowing a cloud of water vapor into the air before roaring-a death roar, full of evil and malice. He combines the pessimism of Schopenhauer with the despair of de Sade; he is evil and unredeemable.  He is the world leader pretend.

“I am everything!”

Preparing ammunition for wild-eyed men, science fiction spies of modern politics, cynical, cryptic, cyanide visionaries.  Alas…Alas!  The end and black smoke billowing over Jerusalem.  Roman legions unfurled across three continents with their tanks, and helicopters, and jet fighters.  From the fog shrouded moors of Scotland to the sunny slopes of Spain.  From the blood drenched sands of North Africa to the spice and incensed streets of the Orient.

“I am Everything!” Dr. Domitian is ready to find fault with God.  His internal organs are exposed like an anatomical model: tar clogged lungs folded over a blackened heart, shriveled liver grey and oozing.  His bowels are swollen and bloated with fetid gas.  Power surges through his fists, streaks of blurred light. Blue sparks into the dark.

John: “I bind and command you, in the name of the holy arch-angels, to stand and to depart, to leave this terrestrial sphere.  Leave here and return to your spiritual realm to receive what is your due.” 

Interviewer: Have you ever been a patient of Dr. Tarrec?  Dr. P. L. Tarrec?

John: No.  I don’t think so.

Interviewer: Do you know Dr. Tarrec?  Have you ever met him?


Interviewer:  It says here that you’re a schizo-fantasist, an Alchemysticist.  Can you explain what that means?

John: I drew a summoner’s circle on the floor with wax and salt.  I lit candles.  Inverted crosses hung on the walls.  Dr. Domitian says that I was staging a crime scene with disparate elements drawn from numerous traditions.  Egyptian, Greek, popular Satanism … in a buffet styled amalgamation.  But I don’t remember doing this.  I thought it was a dream, a vision of … I’m sorry. What was the question?

 Interviewer: Is something bothering you, John?  Would you like to stop for a while?

John: There are arguments in the apartment next to mine. All night long, I can hear them fighting.  Screaming.   And outside there are police sirens.  But they don’t stop here.  Someone crashed into a telephone pole.  Sparks showered the street.  News helicopters hover over us.  A warehouse is on fire, but they’re still fighting next door.

Interviewer: John?

John: I’m not talking about decent, ordinary people, here.  I’m not decent.  I’m not ordinary.  I told you, already: I’m the devil.  I deserve this.  Like Daemon and the Omen, I can’t be trusted.  I can’t be helped.  It wasn’t enough.  It will never be enough.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Dragon and Skull

Here are a couple of photos that I took last week at the Universal Studios Theme Park in Orlando, Florida.  My kids love them, but my wife wonders why only photograph "creepy" things...

Biblical Limericks: Turn, Turn, Turn

There’s a time and a season for all:
a time to die and a time natal,
there’s a time to uproot,
and a time to dispute,
a time for everything but cold calls.

Ecclesiastes 3: 1- 8

Architectural Details

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Background Images for Everyone - 2015 - Week 13

Last week I was much delayed in sharing my regular free background image.  I was on vacation with my family  But now I'm home again and back to my (mostly) regular schedule.  You are welcome to download this image and to use it in any of your projects at home, work, school, or church. Use it where and how you will; I only ask that you share it freely and that you tell others that you found it here.

 photo Week 13_zpssa297c2o.jpg

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Background Images for Everyone - 2015 - Week 12

I'm several days later than usual in posting this free background image.  I was out of town, on vacation with my family.  You understand, right?

Anyway.  Here it is: this week's (better late than never) free image. Use it where and how you will, I only ask that you share it freely and that you tell others that you found it here.

 photo Week 12_zpsv0qcvzs5.jpg

Books I Didn’t Write

Here are eight books that I did not write / have not (yet) written:

#1–I Love Everyone -A high energy, conversational approach to meeting new people and making friends.

#2–Your Friend, Algebra–1,001 practical and fun applications of high school level algebra.

#3–The Saurian Call–Steamy dinosaur themed erotica.

#4–Over One Billion Reasons–A defense of, and apology for McDonald’s.

#5–Greisbach Hypothesis Is Best Hypothesis-written expressly to irritate my friend, Joel.

#6–The Big Book of Christian Internet Memes–Click and Share if you feel guilty about Jesus.

#7–The Ezekiel Diet–SPOILERS! It’s mostly dense bread baked over dung.

#8–The Life of Saint Helveticus: Volume 2 – Baptism through Fire-The second of a five volume work on the life of Saint Helveticus, covering the years between 1673 -1873. 

And here is one book that I did write: Muted Hosannas-a collection of poetry and photography. 

Monday, March 16, 2015

Spring Break Vacation - Day 1

It may not be officially, calendrically spring just yet, but we're on our spring break vacation.  The Carter family (at least my small branch of it) is in Orlando, Florida.  We left early this morning, flying from 40 degree weather to 80 degrees. We've already been visited by a number of anoles: cute little guys. We played a round of miniature golf with my in-laws, and now we're making plans for the rest of the week.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Dr. Tarrec Receives an Admonishment from the Revealing Angel

So, son of man, child of dust and ash, will you now recite your prayers and speak your prophecies?  Will you tell them of Gogmagog! and the terrorist attacks that he will sponsor?  Will you sing the song that you heard in secret?  The trumpeting angels encamped in an abandoned building in the midst of an urban industrial park will signal the beginning of the cataclysm. 

The planets align.  The flood begins.

Son of dust and death, have you accepted your place in the universe?  The British Museum of Occult Synthesis has the records that you need, the significant scriptures are on file in their hidden fortress facilities.  They have preserved the necessary weapon technologies from an ancient time, a forgotten time. The planets will align.  The seals will be broken.  There are only 1,000 days for the 1,000 mountains. 

Do not forget that the Gulf War produced multiplied dead without gratitude.  Stand at the Outer Wall that they may hear your words of warning.

After speaking to the dead, the world’s population will turn their swords against their comrades, against themselves.  The Underfather is dead; his iron lung ceased its wheezing.  Mountains fall, cliffs crumble.  International Plague Inspectors will be turned away at the door, unable to earn your trust.  You must acknowledge the keening sound of police sirens in the streets.  You must hear them, even as you hear the prayers of vengeance offered by the dying saints. 

E. Coli bombs will be dropped over the cities of your enemies, kingdom against kingdom.  Sabotage and urban warfare as, nation against nation, the world shakes itself apart.  Stand at the Eastern Gate and tell them these things.

There are over one billion angels singing pop songs in the atmosphere.  When they cease from singing there will be a universal silence. The angel Gabriel is strong, his hands scarred and horned, but is he strong enough to sustain that silence?  There will be seven years of rodents in the dark.  Son of ash and thunder, are you able to tell them of these things?

Geese on the Ice

This photo was taken at the Mariposa recreation area in Jasper County, Iowa, yesterday afternoon. That ice won't be there much longer.

Biblical Limericks: The Abomination of Desolation

When you see the Abomination
set up in the sacred location,
if you’re in Judea
you will have to flee-a;
make an immediate migration.

Matthew 24: 15 - 18

Friday, March 13, 2015

Albert Schweitzer Fight Club

I was deeply disturbed and the visions that passed through my head alarmed me.  Albert Schweitzer started a secret fight club in the basement of my church.  So I approached one of those who were standing by and asked him about all this.  And in reply he said to me, “Rule number one: You don’t talk about Albert Schweitzer fight club.”

This was the horn I had watched making war on the holy ones in the basement, and proving the stronger.

“Let me give you a definition of fight club,” he said to me.  “It is good to maintain and further life.  It is bad to damage and destroy life. And this ethic, profound, and universal has the significance of a religion. It is a religion.”

I was greatly disturbed in my mind, for the highest knowledge is to know that we are surrounded by mystery.  I grew pale; but I couldn’t keep these things to myself.

Queen Anne's Lace

My ENV SCI (environmental science) class took a field trip today to the nearby Mariposa State Park. We were there for a "biological diversity scavenger hunt," to collect (by way of photographs) examples different species of flora and fauna.  This is one of the photographs I took this afternoon.


Biblical Limericks: Private Things

The Seraphs in heaven are beings
created with six wonderful wings:
two to cover their face,
two for flying in space,
and two to cover their private things.

Isaiah 6: 2

“Feet” is often used in the Hebrew Bible as a euphemism.

Bottle Blur

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Nighttime Conversations with Non-Sequitur Jesus

I don’t know why some people say that the best place for new believers, new Christians to start reading the Bible is with the Gospel of John.  It is a frustratingly difficult book.  And it is deliberately so.  Misunderstandings and esoteric double meanings are constant through the fourth gospel. This coming Sunday we’ll be reading from that very familiar part of John’s Gospel – Nicodemus’ encounter with Jesus in chapter three (3:1 – 21).  But, as familiar as it is, I think we (most of us) really don’t understand it. Jesus seems set to deliberately confuse.  Follow this, if you can:

Nicodemus (whose name means “Victory of the People”) came to Jesus at night (the symbolism is thick and heavy throughout this passage and through John’s gospel as a whole) and said, “We know you are a teacher who has come from God.  We’ve seen the signs you’ve done and no one could do them without God…”

And Jesus answers, “I solemnly assure you (or in the old King James vernacular, “verily, verily I say,”) no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above (or anew).”

If you don’t have whiplash there, it’s because you weren’t paying attention. Nicodemus didn’t ask a question, and didn’t mention either being born from above or the kingdom of heaven. Yet Jesus seems to begin in the middle of a conversation. Nicodemus’ confusion is natural. “What are you talking about, being born again? How can a man be expected to reenter his mother’s womb and be born all over again?” 

Non-sequitur Jesus continues “I solemnly assure you, if you want to see the kingdom of God you’ve got to be born of water and of spirit.” More whiplash.  First it’s “born from above” or “born anew” –expressions that he doesn’t stop to explain, now it’s “born of water and spirit” – also not explained. But Jesus doesn’t stop there. He launches into a discussion about the movement of the wind. The connection there is a little easier to grasp: in Greek (as in Hebrew) the same word is used for both spirit and wind. Jesus uses the double meaning to make another unsignaled turn in the conversation.

Nicodemus still doesn’t get it (and how could he?): he asks: “How can things like this happen?” And then he disappears (at least until chapter 7, and he makes a final brief appearance in chapter 19).  Nicodemus fades back into the darkness; the dialogue becomes a monologue (Brown 145). 

From this discussion of the wind, Jesus makes a tergiversation and says “no one has gone up into heaven except the one who has come down from heaven”–apparently speaking of himself, and also apparently forgetting (or ignoring) Enoch, Elijah, Moses, Daniel, and Baruch who were said to either have been carried off to heaven, or to have seen into the heavenly places. Shifting directions again, almost midsentence, Jesus equates himself (apparently) with the bronze serpent that Moses lifted up in the desert and makes the first reference to “eternal life” in the Gospel of John.

Then comes that verse that Martin Luther did NOT describe as “the gospel in miniature": For God so loved the world that he gave his only son so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”

And though Bannerman may hold up his placard with this verse at football games, and children may memorize it in Sunday School it is not quite as simple as we might believe it to be.  It’s the word “so” that is tricky.  Does the verse mean that “God loved the world SO MUCH that he gave his son…”  making “so” a measure of the degree of intensity of God’s love - or does answer the question: How did God love the world? Like so, he gave his only son. 

Jesus turns again and says that he’s not come to condemn the world but to save it, and besides those who don’t believe have already condemned themselves. And then he brings the passage full symbolic circle by comparing light and darkness (reminding us that Nicodemus came to see Jesus at night). 

But where is Nicodemus?  He’s gone off somewhere to try and figure this all out.

Brown, Raymond E. The Gospel of John (i - xii) : Anchor Bible Volume 29. Garden City, New York, Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1966.

What I’m Reading: Inside a High Council

I am ambivalent about General John Larsson’s book Inside a High Council: How Salvation Army Generals Are Elected.  The book is a brief description of the process by which The Salvation Army elects its international leader, and a history of how that process has changed over time, but it is bloodless. 

The book succeeds in presenting a step by step description of the process.  But it is often dull, bogged down in the legal minutia of the constitutions, deed polls, amendments and orders of procedures.  This is important information, but making it readable is a challenge.

General Larsson is discreet and maintains the dignity of The Salvation Army throughout this brief book. I would not expect a former General of The Salvation Army to write a shocking tell-all exposé about the conflicts and arguments in the secret meetings of the High Council.  I’m not interested in a sordid airing of dirty laundry, but Inside a High Council comes very close to being hagiography instead of history. 

Larsson, John. Inside a High Council: How Salvation Army Generals Are Elected. Alexandria, Virginia. Crest Books. 2014.


Photograph Shards by Jeff Carter on 500px

Photograph Shards by Jeff Carter on 500px

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

A Walk in Gold

Biblical Limericks: Feed Him

The situation may be quite grim
but, unless scripture you want to trim
to allow for your hates,
the proverb clearly states:
If your enemy’s hungry, feed him.

Proverbs 25: 21

Portrait of Dr. Tarrec as a Spiv

Selah in the Noise – Almost…

Concerts should not be held in gymnasiums. Never, under any circumstances, should a band concert be held in a school gymnasium. Regrettably, however, they often are. Sometimes there is just no other option.

Monday night the Newton, Iowa schools held a “Band Extravaganza” in the gymnasium of Newton High School. The 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th grade bands as well as the High School Symphonic Band, and the High School Wind Ensemble shared a concert event-in the gymnasium. It is the one place large enough to fit them all in, with seats enough for the audience.

The bleachers were filled-which, in itself, was a good thing. It was nice to see so many people come out to support the kids. But every movement in that gymnasium, every bleacher creak, every chatting person, every shuffled foot, and every crying baby made noise that reverberated continuously throughout the room. No matter how well a band plays, they will not sound good in a gymnasium.  The music gets lost in the noise.

We were there to hear my son perform with the 8th grade band.  His band played a very nice piece entitled: Awakening Hills by Richard Saucedo. But I was especially impressed by a piece that the NHS Wind Ensemble played- a band arrangement of Selah by Dan Forrest Jr

It is a gorgeous piece of music, and the kids played it well. The lush, rich chords of the song filled the gymnasium, and for one moment there was near holy silence, a pause, a selah. People stopped shuffling their feet. The chatter died down. Even the crying babies seemed to hush.

Then came one of the pauses, and the crowd-not watching the conductor to see that his baton was still raised, and forgetting that he’d warned them before the song began that there was going to be a few of these pauses within the song-began cheering and applauding wildly. The conductor grimaced, but continued. The audience quieted down, somewhat, to hear the band. Then came another of the pauses, and again (GAH!) people began to applaud and to cheer. The band continued the song, and the crowd laughed at their mistake.

I sighed. Such a gorgeous wonderful song.  Lost in the noise of the gymnasium.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Biblical Limerick: Rich Man / Poor Man

The poor man has a neighbor who sends
him away to who knows what cruel ends,
and though it is not fair
the verse doesn’t end there,
the rich, oh the rich have many friends.

Proverbs 14: 20


Monday, March 9, 2015

I'm In the War Cry

I'm in the War Cry - or rather, an advert for my book is.    The War Cry is the official news publication of the Salvation Army; national versions of it are published around the world.

(Look for me on the "Resources" page.)

Biblical Limericks: Weapons of War

Here’s a verse that we choose to ignore,
if we were asked we could display more,
but this one will suffice,
it is short and concise:
“Wisdom’s worth more than weapons of war.”

Ecclesiastes 9: 18

In the City of Lights and Murder

He shall be grieved; he is wounded and wasted, but he shall return, for he always returns, again and again with his pains. The monster within him never dies. And within the City of Lights, that sanctuary of paganism where religious conquerors still survive, he will find the gold and the silver seized from churches. The bells may be broken, but they are there. The walls are ravaged by irruptions of barbarians from the North, teenage hoodlums, Vandals. 

He shall be grieved and return-he can never really leave. The departure protocols set by the Captain are yet to be filed. Around him-the sound of an empire falling, broken into fragments as the murders begin.

The prophet has given us a view of the City, filled as it is with the most wonderful discoveries, all the scientific and mechanical achievements of the present age. Take this: #1 The Suspension Bridge–a marvel of concrete and wire. The Brooklyn Bridge was completed in 1883, now the bodies of the slaughtered are hung there for display.

The sovereignty of the sea is compromised; the Senate falls under his power. Now is the time for gas masks and riots; suspicion sweeps every street. It is the Gothic Horn, the Gothic horde, and spear gun murders. One by one the Lords and Ladies of the City surrender, relinquishing their masks to the killer among them. Throw the bodies overboard and take to the seas. On cruise ships and yachts they feel no responsibility.

#2 Modern Battleships- We have more power upon the ocean than any nation before. Our modern armada, armored and vast, rules every wave.

Russia saw another opportunity to startle the powers of Europe, and struck a blow upon her unprepared opponents. She stepped out into warmer climates and deliberately ignored the stipulations of all previous treaties. This was no search and rescue operation. This was no mission of mercy.  It was a strident display of military prowess just as it was in 1619 when Peter the Great seized the Sea of Azov from the Turks and murdered his enemies while they slept.  A thrill of horror! He’s come back and they’re all going to die.

#3 Modern Artillery-We have cannons capable of throwing a projectile over five feet in length and weighing 2,400 pounds a distance of 20 miles through a hell-of-a-storm. Thunder, lightning, wind, and waves.  Fire and smoke in the basement, the smell of charred flesh and burnt plastic.  Thunder crashes-no one hears the alarm. No one sees the distress flare through the rain. These men are not soldiers; they are children led by a madman. A storm is coming and a mistake.

Can you see the contradictions contained in every verse, every line? The ceremonies of an insane time, unrivaled in absurdities and impish behavior, are performed with dancing and drinks in the lounge. Topple the statues! Tear down the walls! A band of musicians, preceded by a solemn procession of user and losers, leads the way for us all. If we must have idols (and, yes, we must) then bow before the altar of the gun. Ascend the steps to this strange god.

#4 The Typewriter-Manifestos and Propaganda are produced new every day; important texts are composed with speed and accuracy. Calendars are adjusted. The week is lengthened from seven days to ten days. The word-the written word-the Typewritten Word will change the world. 

What a galaxy of wonders is here. #5 The Telegraph and #6 Electric Lighting-the modern world seems insane with it all. Walking corpses are not real, of course, but they are here, here in this time of the end when the book of prophecy is no longer sealed, but open for all to read and understand. A mighty angel comes down from heaven with a sword in his hand to confront the dead and the dying. 

We are lost in a fog at sea, in a little rowboat. We all went to New York City in a little rowboat. It is dark, but the streets are illuminated by burning cars. We must move on toward those prophetic expectations.  The clock is ticking and the cars are all burning. In a rowboat on a lake of fire, we are choking on smoke and fumes.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Background Images for Everyone - 2015 - Week 11

Here it is again, the weekly free background image.  It's yours to download and to use at home, work, school, or church. Use it where and how you will.  I only ask that you share it freely and that you tell others that you found it here.

This particular photo was taken at the Neil Smith Wildlife Refuge in Prairie City, Iowa a few weeks ago.

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Woodrow Wilson, AntiChrist

Today being the day that we all grumble about having to set our clocks forward an hour because of Daylight Saving Time, I thought it appropriate to share this fragment from the writings of my friend, Dr. Tarrec.


The number of the beast, says the prophecy, is the number of a man, and his number is Six hundred threescore and six (666).  This is very easily understood when it is remembered that the Hebrew and Greek systems of writing did not, at this time, have separate characters for numbers.  Their alphabets served double duty as both letters and numbers; each letter also had a numerical value.  Recall, that the Hebrew letter “Vav” has the numerical value of six.  Recall, also, that the English equivalent of “Vav” is the letter W.  Therefore WWW equals 666.  And as the number of the man is his name this is immediately recognized in WoodroW Wilson.  The 28th President of the United States is the AntiChrist spoken of in the Holy Scriptures…

...and he shall “think to change times and laws.”  What laws and whose?  Not the laws of other earthly governments, though he attempted even this for nothing was beyond his vainglorious ambition, and it was nothing marvelous or strange for one power to change the laws of another.  No, not content with altering human laws of every kind, the Little Horn-that is, Woodrow Wilson-had power to change the very times and laws.  This, most audacious of all, refers to his introduction of the (so-called) Daylight Saving Time.  The world was his for a time, times and the dividing of times, moving the hours by his tyrannical decree. 

…John saw that one of the seven heads of this blasphemous beast rising up from the sea was wounded, as it were, to death.  What else is this, but the stroke suffered by President Wilson on October 2, 1919? The president was confined to bed for weeks, unable to meet with anyone.  His presidency was effectively over, dead.  And when pressed further we find that this fits with the predictions made by the prophet Zechariah, who wrote, “Woe to the worthless shepherd who leaves the flock! A sword shall be against his arm and against his right eye; His arm shall completely wither, and his right eye shall be totally blinded.” (Zechariah 11:17).  The stroke that, as it were, killed the seventh head of the beast, left President Wilson paralyzed on his left side, and blinded in his right eye.

…Do not be deceived! The League of Nations is the AntiChrist’s revived Roman Empire-the one world government, new world order at the end of the world.  And he will rule this evil empire from his throne at the pit of the world, Belgium.  …

Biblical Limericks: Purposefully Abstruse

Jesus, in John, is provocative,
making statements that are combative.
Purposefully abstruse,
does he want to confuse?
And yet, this gospel is still tractive.

Saturday, March 7, 2015


A replica of the Celtic cross at Monasterboice.

Photograph Cruciform by Jeff Carter on 500px

Biblical Limericks: Parable of the Growing Seed

So the Kingdom of God is like this:
a man scatters his seeds, hit or miss,
then, while he is sleeping,
grain grows up for reaping,
but he takes no credit for all this.

Mark 4: 26 - 29

Steinbeck and the Most Important Word in the World

Have I mentioned that I love Steinbeck?  Of course I have; John Steinbeck is the best. Take for example, this discussion of Cain and the most important word in the world, from his novel East of Eden:

                “Do you remember when you read us the sixteen verses of the fourth chapter of Genesis and we argued about them?”
                “I do indeed.  And that’s a long time ago.”
                “Ten years nearly,” said Lee.  “Well, the story bid deeply into me and I went into it word for word.  The more I thought about the story, the more profound it became to me.  Then I compared the translations that we have-and they were fairly close.  There was only one place that bothered me.  The King James version says this-it is when Jehovah has asked Cain why he is angry.  Jehovah says, ‘If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? And if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.’ It was the ‘thou shalt’ that struck me, because it was a promise that Cain would conquer sin.”
                Samuel nodded.  “And his children didn’t do it entirely,” he said.
                Lee sipped his coffee.  “Then I got a copy of the American Standard Bible.  It was very new then.  And it was different in this passage.  It says, ‘Do thou rule over him.’ Now this is very different This is not a promise, it is an order.  … The American Standard translation orders men to triumph over sin, and you can call sin ignorance.  The King James translation makes it a promise in ‘Thou shalt,’ meaning that men will surely triumph over sin.  But the Hebrew word, the word timshel-‘Thou mayest’-that gives a choice.  It might be the most important word in the world.  That says the way is open.  That throws it right back on a man.  For if ‘Thou mayest’-it is also true that ‘Thou mayest not.’ Don’t you see?”
                “Yes, I see.  I do see.  But you do not believe this is divine law.  Why do you feel its importance?”
                “Ah!” said Lee. “I’ve wanted to tell you this for a long time.  I even anticipated your questions and I am well prepared. Any writing which has influenced the thinking and the lives of innumerable people is important.  Now, there are millions in their sects and churches who feel the order, ‘Do thou,’ and throw their weight into obedience.  And there are millions more who feel predestination in ‘Thou shalt.’  Nothing they may do can interfere with what will be.  But ‘Thou mayest’!  Why that makes a man great, that gives him stature with the gods, for in his weakness and his filth and his murder of brother he has still the great choice.  He can choose his course and fight it through and win.”  Lee’s voice was a chant of triumph.  

Friday, March 6, 2015

My Little Suffragette

My daughter, in a high school performance of Hello, Dolly.  Sure wish they'd teach those kids how to use apostrophes...

Biblical Limericks: Worthless!

“Meaningless and vain,” says the teacher.
“Worthless!” exclaims the ancient preacher.
“Life’s nothing but trouble;
that judgment goes double
for those blogs where limericks feature.

Ecclesiastes 1: 2


Thursday, March 5, 2015

Stereotyped Hydrogen Rocket Specialist

Biblical Limericks: Your Future Is Bleak

Blessed are you who are poor and meek;
blessed are you when they call you weak
but woe upon the rich
living without an itch-
you laugh now, but your future is bleak.

Luke 6: 20-26

The Most Contentious Man This World Has Ever Seen

I have been re-reading one of my favorite books, East of Eden by John Steinbeck.  I love Steinbeck. 

In this passage Samuel Hamilton is preparing to visit his friend and neighbor, Adam Trask, in order to help bring him out of a year-long funk.  Adam’s wife, Cathy, had shot him and abandoned him and their newly born twin sons.  Samuel is charged by his wife with making sure that those boys have names. 
In the midst of painting the blacking on his worn shoes he looked sideways up at her. “Could I take the Bible along?” he asked.  “There’s no place for getting a good name like the Bible.”
“I don’t much like it out of the house,” she said uneasily.  “And if you’re late coming home, what’ll I have for my reading?  And the children’s names are in it.” She saw his face fall.  She went into the bedroom and came back with a small Bible, worn and scuffed, its cover held on by brown paper and glue. “Take this one,” she said.
“But that’s your mother’s.”
“She wouldn’t mind.  And all the names but one in here have two dates.”
“I’ll wrap it so it won’t get hurt,” said Samuel.
Liza spoke sharply, “What my mother would mind is what I mind, and I’ll tell you what I mind. You’re never satisfied to let the Testament alone.  You’re forever picking at it and questioning it. You turn it over the way a ‘coon turns over a wet rock, and it angers me.”
“I’m just trying to understand it, Mother.”
“What’s there to understand? Just read it.  There it is in black and white.  Who wants you to understand it?  If the Lord God want you to understand it He’d have given you to understand or He’d have set it down different.”
“But, Mother-“
“Samuel,” she said, “you’re the most contentious man this world has ever seen.”
“Yes, Mother.”
“Don’t agree with me all the time. It hints of insincerity. Speak up for yourself.”
“She looked after his dark figure in the buggy as he drove away.  “He’s a sweet husband,” she said aloud, “but contentious.”
And Samuel was thinking with wonder, Just when I think I know her she does a thing like that.

I recognize something of Samuel in myself-though I never refer to my wife as “mother.”  That’s just weird.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

In the Mailbox

I have been using the handle "Thatjeffcarter" online since about 2009.  Today, for the first time, I received mail-actual, physical, delivered by U.S. Postal carrier mail-addressed to Thatjeffcarter.

Biblical Limericks: Pity or Indignation?

A leper came to Christ’s location
to be cured of his degradation;
Jesus said, “I’m willing,”
but was he feeling
pity or was it indignation?

Mark 1: 40 - 41


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Biblical Limericks: Brainless

When, finally, wise king Solomon
came to life’s end and died and passed on
he left his great kingdom
to Prince Rehoboam,
the most stupid and brainless of sons.

Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) 47: 23

What I’m Reading – The Last of the Mohicans

The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper is a difficult novel to assess. It has been both hailed as a great American classic, and derided as overwrought and verbose. It is set within the confines of history–particularly in the Seven Year War (French and Indian War) and the events surrounding the Ft. William Henry Massacre, but it veers off from history into the realm of the imaginative romance (in the classical sense – a tale of love and adventure) that becomes increasingly ridiculous, before returning to something like reality in its final chapters.

Of particular interest to me as I read the novel was Cooper’s treatment of racial relations. And here, too, the novel is difficult to judge. On the one hand Cooper uses what may be described as clichés and stereotypes to define his characters. Uncas and Chingachgook are the “noble savage,” brave and stoic, wise and proud; Magua, the villain, is cruel, without loyalty and is one of those drunken Indians addicted to the white man’s “fire water.” But are these two dimensional characters intended to slur all Native Americans or is this the result of a genre where everything is heightened and exaggerated – where the heroes are pure and virtuous and the villains are barbaric and despicable? Are Uncas and Chingachgook at one end, and Magua at the other end of a spectrum of human characteristics–encompassing all rather than reducing all?

The character Natty Bumppo, known as Hawkeye, also presents an interesting dilemma. He is a white man who lives at the fringes of society, more at home with the native tribes than whites, but freely moving between both. He sometimes lauds his whiteness as a measure of his superiority, and sometimes praises his native brothers as the better men. 

It should probably be remembered, also, that The Last of the Mohicans was first published in 1826-at a time when American attitudes toward the Native Americans were generally less than favorable (to put it kindly.) Native American tribes were regarded by white leaders as mere savages, uncivilized. White leaders said that the Indians prized “theft, arson, rape and murder” and raised their children “to regard killing as the highest virtue.” Indian men, according to these powerful American leaders, were indolent and lazy, leaving all the hard work for their women. They were barbarous, and savage, and superstitious heathen” (Nichols 175 - 6). Not many years after Cooper’s book was published the Native American Removal Act of 1830 was passed by Congress, which paved the way for the forced expulsion of tens of thousands of Native Americans along the “Trail of Tears.”

But in the Cooper’s novel, Native Americans are heroic and brave, noble and praiseworthy. And in one of the frequent footnotes Cooper included, the Quaker William Penn and his descendants are praised for having done no wrong “to the original owners of the soil” (356).  It is difficult to read the story as ‘racist’ against this background. 

We might also consider the character of Cora Munro – who is of mixed race, a “mulatto.”  She is never disparaged in the book because of her mixed ancestry, though she acknowledges the second class status she and her black ancestors are given in society. 

And speaking of Cora, the issue of sexism is sometimes raised in criticism of the novel. The female characters Cora and Alice Munro (half-sisters with different mothers) are repeatedly referred to as the “gentle ones.” They are delicate and need male protection and rescue. That said, however, the novel does pass the Bechdal Test–if only just. The treatment of Cora and Alice may be considered sexist and chauvinist by today’s standards, but it represents the norm of that time–and it should be noted that Cora and Alice are just as brave and courageous as any of the male characters. 

The Last of the Mohicans is a divisive book; many love it, many loathe it. It has inspired multiple adaptions for film, television and radio. It has even been adapted for the stage as an opera.  But I’m not particularly fond of Cooper’s overwrought style.  His endless descriptions are tiring.  His dialogue is stilted.  And the prose is pretentious. 

He swung for the fences, writing as if for an epic in the style of Homer and Virgil, but Cooper let his novel drift into the realm ridiculous and could not sustain the epic majesty he wanted to achieve with his prose.  The novel begins in the grounded events of history at Ft. William Henry but towards the end it is reduced to a series of costumed hijinks:  Hawkeye disguises himself as a bear and prowls through an enemy camp; Chingachgook disguises himself as a beaver to fool their pursuers. It’s silly. I can accept Patroclus disguising himself in the armor of Achilles to lead the Greeks into battle; I can only laugh at Cooper’s characters parading around in animal costumes.

Cooper, James Fenimore.  The Last of the Mohicans, USA. Readers Digest, 1984.

Nichols, David A. Lincoln and the Indians: Civil War Policy and Politics, St. Paul, MN. Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2012.
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