Sunday, December 25, 2011

It's a Wonderful Life

Steven and Friends by paynehollow
Steven and Friends, a photo by paynehollow on Flickr.

I recently learned that, in the 1940s, the FBI considered the old Christmas movie, It's a Wonderful Life a piece of communist propaganda.

Of course they did.

From a 1947 FBI memo...

With regard to the picture “It’s a Wonderful Life”, [redacted] stated in substance that the film represented rather obvious attempts to discredit bankers by casting Lionel Barrymore as a “scrooge-type” so that he would be the most hated man in the picture. This, according to these sources, is a common trick used by Communists...

In addition, [redacted] stated that, in his opinion, this picture deliberately maligned the upper class, attempting to show the people who had money were mean and despicable characters...

I love this movie and its message. It's one of my favorites. I thought this Christmas morning, I'd offer one of the wonderful quotes from that wonderful old movie that the FBI apparently found questionable...

[George Bailey, speaking to the bankers about the possible closing of his father's tiny savings and loans business:]

...Why, in the 25 years since he and his brother, Uncle Billy, started this thing, he never once thought of himself. Isn't that right, Uncle Billy? He didn't save enough money to send Harry away to college, let alone me.

But he did help a few people get out of your slums, Mr. Potter, and what's wrong with that?

Why... here, you're all businessmen here. Doesn't it make them better citizens? Doesn't it make them better customers? You... you said... what'd you say a minute ago? They had to wait and save their money before they even ought to think of a decent home. Wait? Wait for what?

Until their children grow up and leave them? Until they're so old and broken down that they... Do you know how long it takes a working man to save $5,000?

Just remember this, Mr. Potter, that this rabble you're talking about... they do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community. Well, is it too much to have them work and pay and live and die in a couple of decent rooms and a bath?

Anyway, my father didn't think so. People were human beings to him. But to you, a warped, frustrated old man, they're cattle. Well in my book, my father died a much richer man than you'll ever be!

And on an unrelated note, last year at this time, we were celebrating our kids' first self-produced CD of songs. It was made on the cheap and with some sound problems, but it was a delightful Christmas gift to us.

This year, believe it or not, the band our kids is in (Beady) is celebrating the news that they have been signed to a local recording label!

How about that?

Merry Christmas, everyone.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Gingrich Who Saved the Election

Turkey Vulture by paynehollow
Turkey Vulture, a photo by paynehollow on Flickr.

Words of wisdom from Newt Gingrich...

(CNN) - Asked how he plans to engage the gay community in his bid for president, Newt Gingrich on Tuesday told a voter he wouldn't be the right choice for those basing their decision on the issue of same-sex marriage.

"If that's the most important (issue) to you, then you should be for Obama," Gingrich told Scott Arnold, a man who identified himself as gay.


So, there you have it: IF you are gay, you SHOULD NOT VOTE for Gingrich, according to Gingrich (and, by extension, you shouldn't really vote for the GOP*).

IF you have friends, family and/or colleagues who are gay or lesbian, you shouldn't vote for Gingrich/GOP.

IF you are concerned about equal rights and justice, you should not vote for Gingrich or the GOP.

IF you believe in marriage and faithful, loving, healthy marriage commitments, you should not vote for Gingrich or the GOP.

It's not often I'll agree with a fella like Gingrich, but when he's right, he's right. I appreciate the honesty and would encourage everyone to listen to Gingrich at least on this point, where he is right on target.

* CAVEAT: With the possible exception of Ron Paul who, IF he is consistent with his Libertarian leanings, is probably okay with marriage equity for all people.

There are a whole host of OTHER reasons not to vote for Ron Paul.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Christmas Memories...

Donna Scary Santa by paynehollow
Donna Scary Santa, a photo by paynehollow on Flickr.

This is one of my favorite photos of my beloved wife. Here's how I imagined this conversation went....

"Santa": Shuddup kids and lissen. This is how it's gonna work:

Yer not going to ask me for no presents, see? Yer just gonna sit there and smile and pretend I'm saying nice things.

My elf out there is gonna take our picture. Yer not gonna cry. If you do, there'll be hell to pay. And don't even THINK about wetting yer widdle pants while yer sitting on MY lap.

Just smile and act like everything's all right, then get off my lap and get outta here and you'll get to see your parents again.

Ya got that, ya snot-nosed brats?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

About Eight Years Too Late

I Love Mountains - Peace by paynehollow
I Love Mountains - Peace, a photo by paynehollow on Flickr.

The best way to end wars? Don't start them.

The angel went to Mary and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.

He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; God's kingdom will never end...”

And Mary said:
“My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for the Lord has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is God's name.
God's mercy extends to those who fear God,
from generation to generation.
God has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
God has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
God has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
God has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.

God has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever,
just as he promised our ancestors...”

For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace...

...And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth PEACE, goodwill toward all!'

Merry Christmas. Happy Holy Days.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Bible and Economics

Assateague Wild Horse by paynehollow
Assateague Wild Horse, a photo by paynehollow on Flickr.

Part of an ongoing series looking at all the many passages in the Bible that deal with wealth and poverty issues. You can see the links to the other passages in the series under the heading "The Bible and Economics" below.

Today, I'm looking at various passages in the 22nd and 23rd chapters of the book of Deuteronomy, having already explored the first 20 chapters earlier in the year.

You can see others in this series in the "Bible and Economics" link below (on the left).

If you see your fellow Israelite’s ox or sheep straying, do not ignore it but be sure to take it back to its owner.

If they do not live near you or if you do not know who owns it, take it home with you and keep it until they come looking for it. Then give it back. Do the same if you find their donkey or cloak or anything else they have lost. Do not ignore it.

If you see your fellow Israelite’s donkey or ox fallen on the road, do not ignore it. Help the owner get it to its feet...

There is just a simple teaching to remind people to be fair and responsible. "Finding" something that does not belong to you does not make it yours. In fact, you have an obligation to try to get it back to its owner.

Next, we see some rather unsavory divorce rules that were a product of their times...

If a man takes a wife and, after sleeping with her, dislikes her and slanders her and gives her a bad name, saying, “I married this woman, but when I approached her, I did not find proof of her virginity,” then the young woman’s father and mother shall bring to the town elders at the gate proof that she was a virgin.

Her father will say to the elders, “I gave my daughter in marriage to this man, but he dislikes her. Now he has slandered her and said, ‘I did not find your daughter to be a virgin.’ But here is the proof of my daughter’s virginity.”

Then her parents shall display the cloth before the elders of the town, and the elders shall take the man and punish him.

They shall fine him a hundred shekels of silver and give them to the young woman’s father, because this man has given an Israelite virgin a bad name. She shall continue to be his wife; he must not divorce her as long as he lives...

Divorce is covered a good bit in the Bible and, despite the huge difference in culture between now and then, perhaps we can see why: Women were owned. They did not have much in the way of liberty, as we count liberty today. They were not as free to just go out and get a job.

Because of that, there were protections built in for women in Israel's divorce laws. Otherwise, a man could marry, shame and kick out a woman and move on with no responsibility for the desperate economic circumstances that might leave her in.

Here is another (even more unsavory) rule in the same vein...

If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, he shall pay her father fifty shekels of silver. He must marry the young woman, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives.

Earlier, we saw that an ENGAGED woman who is raped, the rapist must be killed.. But an unengaged woman who is raped, well, the rapist just has to pay off the father for the economic damage done.

Unsavory as hell, but it touches on economic issues, so I'll post it here...

If a slave has taken refuge with you, do not hand them over to their master. Let them live among you wherever they like and in whatever town they choose. Do not oppress them...

Slavery is never overtly condemned in the Bible, but you do have passages like this one that suggest at its immorality...

Do not charge a fellow Israelite interest, whether on money or food or anything else that may earn interest. You may charge a foreigner interest, but not a fellow Israelite...

And a ruling forbidding charging a fellow Israelite interest, but charging interest to foreigners is okay.

Do you reckon that Christian bankers today think they ought to live by that same principle? Do you?

The topics of marriage/divorce, slavery and interest are all touched on in the Bible and all have greater economic ramifications. Perhaps as part of this series, I'll group some of those passages together to see what we might learn from them as a whole.

Monday, December 5, 2011


Northern Fence Lizard by paynehollow
Northern Fence Lizard, a photo by paynehollow on Flickr.

How long until he self-destructs?

Each GOP Presidential candidate who has taken the lead has self-destructed. How long until Newt does?

The end of the year?

The end of the week?

The end of the day?

Place yer bets...

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Did I Say That?

I have been criticized by some of those who generally agree with me for the engaging I do with those who don't agree with me/us. I don't know if folk are understanding that I'm not engaging so much for their benefit as I am mine.

Thinking Big Ideas through with those with whom I agree doesn't challenge me as much as when someone is disagreeing with me and I have to consider the Other Side. And so, by engaging with those with whom I disagree, it helps me more fully understand my position and think through if it's the position I truly think right.

Beyond that, almost without fail, when discussing these issues through with those who are opposed to my position, I almost always get a better sense of why I think I'm right. And sometimes, these disagree-ers actually provide for me with better arguments/clarifications.

Case in point: This Sabbath and "rule" discussion I've been having in various places of late.

As you can see in my previous post, I note Jesus' comment/clarification that the Sabbath is made for humanity, not humanity for the Sabbath. I think this is a key to helping us understand a right relationship with rules and community.

In noting this elsewhere, I suggested that the problem we all have at times is the sin of the Pharisees - to hold to and try to enforce rules but doing so without grace.

Along those lines, one commenter said...

One problem with Dan's use of Jesus "breaking" the Sabath. If you look at the commandment, it's pretty general. What Jesus was doing was trespassing on the Pharisee's interpretation of the commandment. In other words there is no Biblical prohibition against picking and eating grain on the Sabbath, that was a later "clarification".

What Jesus was really challenging it seems, was not even the "laws" of the Pharisee's, but the Pharisee's right to be able to make laws in the first place.

And of course, this is an extremely astute observation and one I agree with and think makes great sense.

The Pharisees were guilty of taking an Old Testament rule and enforcing not only the rule, but telling everyone else exactly what that rule meant for everyone.

Now, in the Pharisees defense, the OT rule about the Sabbath does seem fairly clear, if vague.

DO NOT WORK ON SATURDAY, the rule says. And follows up with the kicker, THOSE WHO DO SHOULD BE PUT TO DEATH.

This was a seriously serious rule, right?

And "don't work," well, that's pretty clear. Working in the field to gather food, THAT WAS working for them.

And so, the Pharisees thought they were starting from a right point, by enforcing THEIR UNDERSTANDING of a rule THEY THOUGHT was abundantly clear. THEY THOUGHT "don't glean food" was an obviously reasonable extrapolation of "don't work."

The thing is, they were wrong, according to Jesus. THEIR INTERPRETATION of the rule lacked grace and it lacked in the understanding that the Sabbath was for humanity. (And I will repeat that what was being violated was not the rule, but THEIR EXTRAPOLATED INTERPRETATION, as my commenter rightly pointed out).

The Sabbath rule WAS FOR THEIR SAKE, not some rule to beat folk over the head, but to encourage the rest - the break from work - that we need so desparately.

And so, this commenter was right, I'd say, and they agreed with my point, although I don't think they ever saw it that way.

The OT DOES say (to take a favorite issue for them), "Men shall not lie with men, kill 'em if they do..." That IS what it says. But what was the purpose of the rule? IT WAS FOR THEIR SAKE. The rule was to encourage healthy sexual practices and to discourage unhealthy (in the OT case, temple prostitution and orgies to honor a pagan god) sexual practices.

And so, the conservatives of today are RIGHT to note that the OT does have a verse that says, "men shall not lie with men," but these same conservatives err in THEIR EXTRAPOLATION of the rule given to a specific people thousands of years ago. "THIS VERSE OBVIOUSLY MEANS..." they opine (and, I'll note, it's "obvious" TO THEM, just as the "no gleaning" rule was "obvious TO THE PHARISEES) " that gay folk can't live in a marriage relationship that includes sex with other gay folk...").

JUST LIKE THE PHARISEES (as my commenter noted), they have taken a rule and EXTRAPOLATED OUT an EXTRA rule, and one that is lacking in grace and that lacks the understanding of the rule being FOR OUR SAKE.

If we're concerned about following God's rules for "our sake" (as Jesus noted in the Sabbath rule), then the concern is for HEALTHY SEXUAL RELATIONSHIPS, not a woodenly literal adherence to a millenia-old rule. And it is self-evident to most folk that a committed faithful marriage relationship IS the way to have healthy sexual relationships.

And so, in the paraphrased words of my detractor...

In other words there is no Biblical prohibition against healthy marriage relationships - gay or straight, that has been a later "clarification".

What Jesus was really challenging it seems, was not even the "laws" of the Pharisee's, but the Pharisee's right to be able to make laws in the first place.

So, I thank my conservative commenter for helping to clarify even better for me why my understanding is a biblically and logically and ethically solid understanding.