Tuesday, October 30, 2007

These Guys are Good, Too!

Readers write!
by Charlie Leck

Jeffrey, from California wrote about my blog that dealt with the generosity of professional golfers. He wanted me to be aware that Tiger's Woods' caddy, Steve Williams, gave one million New Zealand dollars to the Starship Children's Hospital in Auckland. Remember when caddies were guys who drank almost all night but got themselves sobered up enough during the day to lug a bag around the course in order to get a few bucks that they could spend on drinks that night? The day of the professional caddy is upon us and some of these guys really make the big bucks. So, the players are indeed good, but so are their caddies. Thanks Jeffrey!

Marv, from Massachusetts, also wanted to comment about the blog. He thought I should have mentioned that the First Tee Program is celebrating its 10th Anniversary.

"I enjoy supporting the First Tee program both by contributing money and by volunteering. I hope people understand that the program is about more than teaching golf. We believe the program has to do with teaching life skills and setting behavior standards. We're teaching good decision making and the importance of honesty and cooperation in everything that one does."

Congratulations to the First Tee organization and to you too, Marv, for your involvement in it.

We also heard from the President of Homes for our Troops. He wanted to thank us for mentioning that organization in our blog about the Good Guys.

Knowing that so many people are reading the blog keeps me going. I have an important new piece about Classical Conservatism that is almost ready to be posted.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Wisdom of Twain

Don't fiddle with it!
by Charlie Leck

Sometimes, somewhere, someone says it so well that you don't need to analyze it or fiddle with it.

"It is not worthwhile to try to keep history from repeating itself, for man's character will always make the preventing of the repetitions impossible." [Mark Twain, Eruption]

"Americans too often teach their children to despise those who hold unpopular opinions. We teach them to regard as traitors, and hold in aversion and contempt, such as do not shout with the crowd, and so here in our democracy we are cheering a thing which of all things is most foreign to it and out of place - the delivery of our political conscience into somebody else's keeping. This is patriotism on the Russian plan." [Mark Twain]

The radical of one century is the conservative of the next. The radical invents the views. When he has worn them out the conservative adopts them." [Mark Twain, Notebook, 1898]"

"I am plenty safe enough in his hands; I am not in any danger from that kind of a Diety. The one that I want to keep out of the reach of, is the caricature of him which one finds in the Bible. We (that one and I) could never respect each other, never get along together. I have met his superior a hundred times-- in fact I amount to that myself." [Mark Twain, in a letter to Olivia Clemens, 17 July 1889]

"To be a patriot, one had to say, and keep on saying, 'Our country, right or wrong,' and urge on the little war. Have you not perceived that that phrase is an insult to the nation?… An inglorious peace is better than a dishonorable war." [Mark Twain, Glances at History]

"So much blood has been shed by the Church because of an omission from the Gospel: "Ye shall be indifferent as to what your neighbor's religion is." Not merely tolerant of it, but indifferent to it. Divinity is claimed for many religions; but no religion is great enough or divine enough to add that new law to its code." [Mark Twain, A Biography]

"We easily perceive that the peoples furthest from civilization are the ones where equality between man and woman are furthest apart--and we consider this one of the signs of savagery. But we are so stupid that we can't see that we thus plainly admit that no civilization can be perfect until exact equality between man and woman is included." [Mark Twain, Notebook]

"We are discreet sheep; we wait to see how the drove is going, and then go with the drove." [Mark Twain, Autobiography]

"One of the proofs of the immortality of the soul is that myriads have believed in it. They have also believed the world was flat." [Mark Twain, Notebook, 1900]

"I was gratified to be able to answer promptly, and I did. I said I didn't know." [Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi]

"The motto stated a lie. If this nation has ever trusted in God, that time has gone by; for nearly half a century almost its entire trust has been in the Republican party and the dollar – mainly the dollar. I recognize that I am only making an assertion and furnishing no proof; I am sorry, but this is a habit of mine; sorry also that I am not alone in it; everybody seems to have this disease." [Mark Twain, Eruption]

"Like all the other nations, we worship money and the possessors of it- they being our aristocracy, and we have to have one." [Mark Twain, Eruption]

"When we remember we are all mad, the mysteries of life disappear and life stands explained." [Mark Twain, Notebook, 1898]

"Concerning the difference between man and the jackass: some observers hold that there isn't any. But this wrongs the jackass. [Mark Twain, Notebook]

"If we would learn what the human race really is at bottom, we need only observe it in election times." [Mark Twain, Autobiography]

"The happy phrasing of a compliment is one of the rarest of human gifts, and the happy delivery of it another. [Mark Twain, Autobiography]

"The observance of Thanksgiving Day--as a function--has become general of late years. The Thankfulness is not so general. This is natural. Two-thirds of the nation have always had hard luck and a hard time during the year, and this has a calming effect upon their enthusiasm." [Mark Twain, Following the Equator]

"Man is the only animal that deals in that atrocity of atrocities, War. He is the only one that gathers his brethren about him and goes forth in cold blood and calm pulse to exterminate his kind. He is the only animal that for sordid wages will march out...and help to slaughter strangers of his own species who have done him no harm and with whom he has no quarrel. ..And in the intervals between campaigns he washes the blood off his hands and works for the universal brotherhood of man – with his mouth." [Mark Twain, What Is Man?]

"When I am king, they shall not have bread and shelter only, but also teachings out of books, for a full belly is little worth where the mind is starved." [Mark Twain, The Prince and the Pauper]

"What God lacks is convictions- stability of character. He ought to be a Presbyterian or a Catholic or something- not try to be everything." [Mark Twain, Notebook]

"I wish Europe would let Russia annihilate Turkey a little--not much, but enough to make it difficult to find the place again without a divining-rod or a diving-bell." [Mark Twain, Innocents Abroad]

"Well enough for old folks to rise early, because they have done so many mean things all their lives they can't sleep anyhow." [Mark Twain, Mark Twain's Notebook]

Mark Twain may have been the most quotable man ever to use the English language – perhaps second to Shakespeare anyway! In terms of wisdom, I think Shakespeare comes in behind him.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

These Guys Are Really Good

Read this even if you're not a golfer, please!
by Charlie Leck

Professional golf gets my attention. The Professional Golf Association Tour (PGA Tour) does too. The organization runs television ads that show off the extraordinary skills of these players and closes the ads with the tag line, "These guys are good!"

Unlike the impression we get from most of the leading, well televised professional sports (baseball, basketball and football), where we read regularly of guys getting into deep do-do, golf gives you a picture of players earning big money and giving a lot of it back to help people all over the world. It seems that professional football teams each have a few scandals every year involving serious delinquency on the part of a few of their players. Michael Vick, given 25 million dollar bonus just for signing his contract is only a recent example of such heartless stupidity. Professional basketball will give us a dozen or so explosive acts of misbehavior each year. Baseball is not immune as it, too, provides us with annual blemishes on the character of its players.

Take a look at some of the top ranked players in professional golf, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Vijay Singh and Ernie Els. These guys are just examples of what all the super stars in the sport are doing.

Phil Mickelson
Go to the official Phil Mickelson website and you'll find it's all about the charities he and his wife, Amy, support through the foundation they've established. These are not just random organizations. The Mickelson have carefully thought through what they do. Their generosity is enormous and it shows them to be dedicated and concerned citizens of the globe. Though they are extremely diversified in their giving, they put heavy emphasis right now on supporting the troops who return from the war in great need. Phil and Amy give heavily to these programs: Homes for Our Troops; Special Operations Warrior Foundation and America Supports You. Phil has been known to win a purse of a million dollars or more at a professional golf tournament and turn the check back to the sponsor's supporting charity. "These guys are good!"

[Addition of 25 October 2007: We received a kind comment from John Gosalves, the President of Homes for Our Troops. He thanked us for putting a link up to the organization and said that Phil and Amy Mickelson are "simply put wonderful people with big hearts.”]

Ernie Els
The big guys all have official web sites. Ernie Els.Com is very well designed. If you visit the site, go right to the page about Ernie's Foundation. Though the emphasis is on golf, the whole point is Ernie's effort to introduce the game to young people who would not otherwise be able to afford to take up the game. A group of players from these people is selected each year to play in a championship against players who come out of the Tiger Woods Learning Center.

Vijay Singh
Veej, as many of the golfers call him, doesn't have an official web site. One could almost have guessed that. He's more laid back than most of the players and doesn't much like the limelight and notoriety. He's not known to be as generous as many of the players, but he did seed a foundation that bears his name with a 100 thousand dollar start-up gift.

Tiger Woods
"To whom much is given, much is expected!" Woods earns more money that any athlete on earth. Tiger earned over 10 million dollars in purse money in 2007. It's reported that his endorsements and other ventures brought him in over 100 million. You can go to the home page of the PGA Tour if you want to see what the top ten golfers earned. Mickelson was the second highest earner on the tour and he was 5 million bucks behind Tiger. In addition to the money listed there, Tiger won a 7 million dollar annuity fund for winning the year's FedEX Cup Championship. The player listed 32 on the list still took home more than 2 million dollars in prize money.

Be sure to look at the web site of the Tiger Woods Foundation and that will lead you to the slick, but impressive, 2006 Annual Report of the Tiger Woods Foundation. Together this will give you an idea of just how much Tiger gives and does. The mission of his foundation is to "…empower young people to reach their highest potential by initiating and support community-based programs that promote the health, education and welfare of all of America's children." That sounds ordinary and much like thousands of non-profits around America, but the results this foundation gets are extraordinary. Target Corporation (of Minneapolis) and the Tiger Woods Foundation have teamed up on a fascinating and successful program called Start Something. The idea was that of Tiger's father, Earl Woods, and he capitalized on Tiger's great success to talk Target into cosponsoring this extraordinary concept. The program "dares" kids to start something – something creative, productive and exciting. Scholarships or grants are given to those kids with unique and great ideas, to fund their dream. Some of the stories, like those listed on TWF, will actually bring a tear to your eye – even if you're a big tough guy.

You'll find many golfers who have set up foundations and give very heavily to the work of those foundations. A lot of these guys, like David Toms, Stuart Cink, Mark Calcavecchia and Tom Lehman are legendary for how much they help various charitable endeavors across the nation. "These guys are good!"

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Center Wins

Analyzing Hillary
by Charlie Leck

I've received several more responses about the few blogs I've written lately about the three very acceptable Democratic Party candidates for President. These responses were from people who appear to be Democrats or who want to vote with the Democrats in 2008. There continues to be the nagging feeling that Senator Clinton would be a successful President but not a successful candidate. My regular reaction is to view that concept as Republican Party propaganda. It is extraordinary that the GOP is succeeding in making people think this is true.

Consider the two propositions here. (1) Senator Clinton would be successful as a President. (2) Senator Clinton cannot get elected.

Both of the above are very possible; however, if more than a majority of the voters truly believe she can be a successful President, and wish to vote for her, that is going to show up in the national opinion polls. Once the polls were to show that Senator Clinton has a 7 or 8 point lead over her Republican opponent, the feeling of confidence that she can win will spread among those who wish to vote for her.

I am convinced that the "Hillary can't win!" theme is driven by the Republican Party. They do not want to run against her. They would much prefer to run against Senator Obama or Senator Edwards. Why?

(1) Hillary has the money! (2) Hillary has a vast volunteer army! (3) Hillary has the muscle, in terms of a blue ribbon, experienced campaign organization! (4) Hillary has Bill Clinton.

"Let me be perfectly clear," as a former President used to say before he'd tell one of his whopping lies, I am not saying that Senator Obama or Senator Edwards cannot win. They can, too. My point is that I think it would be a shame if supporters drifted away from Senator Clinton just because they begin to believe this ludicrous Republican propaganda.

Let me expand on my comment about the influence of Bill Clinton in this election. Dozens of the best political minds in the country, from both parties, call Bill Clinton one of the best political strategists of the last century. I agree with them. A couple of years ago I carefully read the former President's autobiography, My Life. As a matter of fact, I read it through twice – quickly once and for pure pleasure and then a second time in a plodding, studious fashion. Clinton adored President John Fitzgerald Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy. He was a young man when each of them was murdered and he grieved enormously. He modeled his political style after them and he learned his political philosophy from studying them. The keystone of his political strategy became that which the Kennedys also adopted: "The center wins!" That doesn't necessarily mean that the winning candidate has to be the most centrist. It means that he, or she, has to appear to be closest to the middle.

If you understand and accept that Senator Clinton, under advice and guidance from her husband, is following that same strategy, then you can understand some of her recent positions on issues. Other candidates are charging that she is too supportive of the President. They claim she wants to go too slowly on the withdrawal of troops from Iraq. She has modified her approach to universal health care. She is not in attack mode.

Senator Clinton is seeking the center ground. Bill Clinton's belief is that the candidate who appears closest to the center ground wins! Forgive me for repeating myself there, but it is a crucial point to understand about the current campaign among the Democratic candidates for President.

I think we will see this Clinton strategy right through the Democratic Convention. Should she win the nomination, she'll continue the procedure throughout the remainder of the year against the Republican nominee.

Here's the one way Senator Clinton could lose. Her organization is huge and is basking in money. It may become unwieldy. The head may not realize what the tail is doing. We are seeing some of that in the current issues concerning questionable financial contributions. Just how are financial contributions being accounted for? The tail may know and the head may not. That is a dangerous situation that needs to be both managed and monitored carefully. The Senator does not need to engage in corrupt campaign financing practices. She knows that! So does the head of the Democratic National Committee, Howard Dean. So does her campaign manager, Terry McAuliffe. There may be workers who don't care that they don't need to do it. Their excitement comes from doing it anyway!

I continue to look at all three candidates carefully. I want the one who has the biggest chance of winning in November of 2008 to get the nomination. Stay tuned.

Do not buy into the Republican propaganda about Senator Clinton's inability to win! Hillary Clinton can win!

Friday, October 19, 2007

A Catholic’s Rage

Jimmy Breslin, a great writer and a greater Catholic, rages at his Church!
by Charlie Leck

I've read a number of good and bad books I want to tell you about: Suite Francais {by Irene Nemirovsky]; Fire in the Blood [also by Nemirovsky]; Bridges of Sighs [by Richard Russo]; Q-School [by John Feinstein]; and The Second Objective [by Mark Frost]. I'll get to them in the next couple of weeks; however, right now, I've just got to write about Jimmy Breslin's book, The Church that Forgot Christ.

"Rage is the only quality which has kept me, or anybody I have ever studied, writing columns for newspapers." [Jimmy Breslin]

Jimmy Breslin is one of the great characters of my life time. I fell for him when I read his book, The Gang that Couldn't Shoot Straight. What a book! I laughed my butt off. I adored the crisp, staccato style of his writing and, on top of everything, it was a remarkable story. Jimmy Breslin is an extremely witty guy. What I learned after reading a lot of him is that he is also passionate, compassionate and he says a lot of important things.

I just finished reading a book he wrote in 2004, The Church that Forgot Christ. Darn, it's really good. The shame of it is that very few of the "right people" will read what he has to say. I'll send a copy of the book to the first one-hundred Roman Catholics who promise me they will carefully read the book from cover to cover. Don't worry; it's a small book in terms of pages (239). It's a very large book in terms of importance. It's an important book for Christians other than Roman Catholics, too.

The book is written with a sense of outrage; yet it is written in Breslin's usual and wonderfully witty style. He brought tears to my eyes and had me chuckling aloud. I was reading some of it in a Panera's shop and a fellow at the next table was looking at me as if I might be a little off my rocker.

Here's some of what I learned in the book and some of what was reconfirmed for me about Jimmy Breslin. He's an awfully good man. He loves his town (New York). He has great compassion for the common guy and the person down on his or her luck. He is a man of faith and his Christ means a great deal to him. He knows more about Christ that the average guy. He is furious at his Church (the Roman Catholic Church) for where it has ended up in this world. He figures a guy can just take so much. He is in a furious struggle with two people who reside within him – the boy taught by nuns to be a good Catholic and man who is outraged at the untruthfulness of the leaders of his Church.

"Do I keep on in a church that I mistrust or remain outside and follow a religion I love?

In his prologue he says: "I qualify for the rank of bishop because I'm not a pedophile."

"In this match between Bishop Breslin and his religion and the old, established church, let me tell you something: The Other Guys Are the Joke.

And as bishop, I called my friend Danny Collins up one day and told him that he was the auxiliary bishop. He was extraordinarily qualified. Certainly, he is no pedophile or pimp. Let's get that out of the way. He does know Latin and Greek.

'Do we have vestments? I have no money for wardrobes,' he said.

'No, Christ never had them.'

'Good. You're not going to have us swinging a can of incense around?'


'Let people listen to them [clergy] and then listen to me. I know what religion has to do,' I said. 'You have to have women priests. And women from the outside, not restricted to nuns. Too many nuns need to have the past shaken out of them. All they do is bow to priests. A parish is a great job for a man and wife. Great housing. Sermons on Sunday. Major sermons. I'll write them with such spirit that they'll ring
through the ages to come of Catholicism in America. The constituent work all week is the work of the Lord. You serve the poor, not the country clubs. Turn your parish into a church following the life of Christ.'

I finished with my favorite expletive: 'Beautiful. You mean to tell me that I don't have a better idea than the people in Rome do?' [Jimmy Breslin: The Church that Forgot Christ]

The book deals a great deal with the crisis of pedophilia among Catholic clergy. Breslin has followed this issue carefully, including a trip to Rome to cover the papal conference about the problem in the American church. Breslin was close to it and couldn't smell it out. His daughter had even tried to tell him about it – and the pain boys she knew were going through as a result of it – but he wasn't listening back then because it was all too impossible within the Church he loved.

"Woe is to he who does harm to a child. It is better that he ties a millstone around his neck and jumps off a cliff." [Luke 17:2]

As the crisis grew and the numbers of priests involved exploded, Breslin began withdrawing. He joined others who believed they could simply do "Mass right here on a card table." Many swore they would never go into "one of those buildings" again. But, he couldn't shake the Church completely. It was a sense of habit. On Sunday mornings he was drawn. The nuns had taught him it was a mortal sin to miss mass. Now they say it's not a sin. Nevertheless, mass is a part of the very visceral innards of Jimmy Breslin. It might be tedious and boring, and the homilies the product of lazy priests, but it was what one did on Sunday morning.

"If I had one shot a delivering a sermon, I would have them rising from the pews and interrupting me with crescendo of applause and shouts of 'Good boy, Bishop Breslin!' for I would not come out there in the usual style of priests, who put ideas in big letters on index cards and then drone on for a half hour. I would have a tightly scripted and rehearsed sermon that would be on something new and vital…. My sermons would be of the moment, with names and addresses of the poor who are suffering, and with finger-pointing, shouting at the parishioners that it is their responsibility before their god to help these people." [Jimmy Breslin: The Church that Forgot Christ]

The litany of sexual abuses by priests that Breslin reports in his book seems to have no conclusion. Estimates run as high as 25,000 cases around the nation. So many Bishops and Archbishops are tainted by either their own involvement or their failure to act against priests who they knew where guilty. The book would be shocking if that is all it was about, but it would not necessarily be good. The book is good because it deals with a bigger matter; and that is that this Church to which he gave his complete and unquestioning faith has simply forgotten Christ. They know nothing of the Christ who commanded his disciples to care for the needy, the diseased and the broken of spirit. The Church is more interested in vestments and things that glitter. Where has it led? Breslin recites the alarming statistics.

"The Brooklyn diocese says there are 187 priests for 217 parishes. The priests are at least aging… In the nation only one-third of the Catholic parishes, once the battleships of the religion, have priests. Around the world, one parish in six has a priest. In the seminaries around New York, there are perhaps a half dozen hopeful priests in training… Now, the religion withers and the sexual crimes enrage. The dismissal of them as merely unfortunate transgressions, and the cover-up and obstruction by people running the church causes underground fires that maybe never can be extinguished." [Jimmy Breslin: The Church that Forgot Christ]

Breslin has some genuine praise for some of the priests of the Church. He singles out a few who understood Christ and model their lives and their service after their Lord. These, Breslin says, are true disciples. The Church's problem is that there are so few of them. As word leaked out that Breslin was working on this book, he was inundated with calls from parishioners who wanted to talk to him about the horrible sins of a priest. The overwhelming number of priests who had been involved in these sexual abuses of children all over America is bad enough, but Breslin's real rage is reserved for the hierarchy of the Church who looked the other way and moved priests about from one parish to another to try to hide them from the accusations of parents. So many bishops and archbishops were involved in the deception. Breslin's detailed accounts of this deception and the strategies used by these leaders of the Church are revolting. These leaders have gone unpunished. May their judgment days be terrible indeed.

Other sins of the Church do not escape Breslin's attention. The sale of grave plots is one of the largest money making tools the Church has. This institution of Christ is ruthless in demanding payment for plots and it is a very cold day in hell when a poor person gets by without paying the appropriate costs, even if it means going into significant debt to do it. Breslin explains the racket and how lucrative it is. He gives plenty of attention to the palatial mansions of the archbishops and cardinals as well. He takes his readers on a trip to Long Island to see the work that was done to turn a rectory into a mansion for the Bishop of Long Island. The price tag would exceed 5 million dollars. Of course, a group of nuns had to be removed from the building in order to allow for its remodeling into the bishop's palace. Christ, Breslin reminds us, did not wear gold rings or robes bedecked in golden thread or fancy head wear or Italian leather slippers. He wore the humble clothing of a working man.

"By tradition, as you get older you draw closer to the Church. It looks like I am going the other way." [Jimmy Breslin: The Church that Forgot Christ]

The Church's anti-abortion policy also comes under Breslin's magnifying glass. He feels the Church is obsessed with the subject, making it the number one concern in all its work. This at a time when serious issues of poverty and homelessness go pretty much unaddressed except by a few abnormally ambitious parishes.

And Breslin is an advocate of ending the celibacy of priests. Some would like to claim that sexual abuse is strictly an American phenomenon. That is silly. The lid is simply being held on more tightly in most other parts of the world. Here and there, however, cases work their way into the news and into the justice systems. Celibacy could be a large part of the problem. The sad thing about the Roman Catholic Church is that it is not willing to openly and honestly look at the possibility. It ignores the issue.

Here's a Salon.Com review of Breslin's book.
Andrew O'Hehir says: "New York's greatest living newspaper columnist says the Catholic Church, corrupted by sexual scandal and creeping right-wing ideology, is dying out in America. And he sheds no tears."

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Thinking about Malcolm X

It's all about reading!
by Charlie Leck

A long, long time ago, when I was but a teenager, a cousin of mine, someone two years younger than I, explained to me the most important thing I'd need to know about education. "If you can read well, you can learn anything and nothing will stop you from learning!" I went along for years, through high school and college, remembering what my dear cousin said, but not really achieving that ability to read. I was a very average student. In graduate school, the finest teacher I ever encountered taught me how to read. Together we would mentally tear a book apart and understand every phase of it, beginning with the usually obvious presuppositions of the writer and then going on to clearly understanding its thesis and objectives. Learning to read scholarly works this way translated itself easily to reading for pleasure. I have a couple of books that my cousin gave me – one when I was a teenager and another while I was in in college – with which I was unable to grapple back then. These days I find it pleasant to pull them from the shelf to read them and see how they are really just child's play. My dear cousin was so correct!

It's a pity if you haven't read The Autobiography of Malcolm X. It is required reading, you know, for this terribly difficult class we are taking – the one call "life." Do not proceed further in this class until you have tackled this extraordinary book. You will not be given a passing grade by this instructor unless you have read and understood this book written by Malcolm X in collaboration with Alex Haley.

I am not going to dissect the book here and now, but you can count on this in an upcoming blog. Right now, I want to write about the importance of reading and the power that it unleashes. A teacher can teach a student nothing more important than how to read a book carefully and thoroughly. One of our children is right now teaching 8th grade English in a school in Harlem (NY) and I want her to understand this – she can teach her students nothing more valuable than how to read a book.

Malcolm X was born in Omaha, Nebraska in 1925. His father died when he was six and his mother was sent to a mental institution when he was twelve. The siblings were split up and sent to various foster homes. Malcolm ended up in Harlem when he was only seventeen. With no real tools of production, he slipped smoothly into a life of crime – prostitution, drugs and burglary. By the time he was nineteen he was in prison, sentenced to spend ten years there. It was the beginning of a new life for him there and it changed him thoroughly and fundamentally.

What changed him? Yes! You ask the best questions!

It was reading that changed this young man. Reading took him from being an uneducated fool to the level of absolute brilliance. "On the street," he said, "I had been the most articulate hustler out there, but now, trying to write simple English, I not only wasn't articulate, I wasn't even functional!" He turned to books, hoping to learn how to write. He discovered that virtually every sentence in every book that he tried to read contained some word or phrase that he could not comprehend. He said that they may as well have been written in Chinese. Skipping the words he did not know caused him to not understand anything he read. So, he began reading with a dictionary at his side, copying down every single word or phrase he did not understand and working on it until he did understand. He felt that he was learning so much that he decided to copy the entire dictionary – at least every single word that he did not understand. He wrote them down and studied each of them until he understood the word and its meanings completely.

Naturally, Malcom X was then able to turn to books. He read them and understood them and a huge, broad door was opened to him and he walked through it. He spent his time in prison reading and reading. He read history, sociology, law and sciences. He became fascinated with books about black civilization. He read about Mahatma Ghandi. He read about the colonization of Africa and about politics, history and culture in Asia. He read everything about American slavery that he could get his hands on. He read about philosophy and psychology. "I have often reflected upon the new vistas that reading opened to me," he once said to Alex Haley. "I knew right there in prison that reading had changed forever the course of my life."

In 1948 he was transferred to a prison in Massachusetts that had a spectacular library. It was as if it was ordained that he should be there. Between then and his release in 1952, he devoured everything.

It was as a result of his reading in prison that he converted to the Muslim faith and he became the leading spokesman in America for Black Muslims. He was a tough leader and brilliant student of community organization. He eventually parted with the Black Muslim organization and formed a group of his own: the Organization for Afro-American Unity. We can read a great deal about his political clashes and his community organization victories, but he was most proud of the fact that he became a teacher and taught a regular class on reading for young people. "Read everything! You never know where you're going to get an idea!"

I close with this quotation from Malcolm X: "My alma mater was books, a good library.... I could spend the rest of my life reading, just satisfying my curiosity."

Much of the material cited in this blog comes from Malcolm X on Education: the encyclopedia of informal education [http://www.infed.org/thinkers/malcolm.htm] ©Barry Burke, 2004

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Keep Your Eyes on Russia

Vladimir Putin is gathering awesome power!
by Charlie Leck

Just when we finally thought Russia might be a friendly companion nation in the struggle for world peace and justice, there are signs of trouble that threaten the development of democracy in that nation. These developments are worth keeping our eyes on.

An election for parliamentary representatives is coming up in December and it will not be a fair one. The balloting procedure is too closely controlled by Vladimir Putin, the nation's incredibly powerful and unchecked President. Vladimir Ryzhkov, one of the hopeful members of Parliament who was elected soon after the fall of the old Soviet Union, calls the process happening now "Selection Before the Election." Putin has the power to select which political parties are legitimate and which are not. It is not like a difficult chess game for him to figure out how to make the proper moves; rather it's less complex than Chinese checkers.

The ballot is so rigged this time that major players in Russia's democracy movement, including Ryzhkov, will lose. Sergei Mironov, a former staunch support of Putin, is now suggesting that the nation is looking like a certain forerunner well-know to all elderly Russians.

Anatoly Yermolin, who has been a significant opponent of Putin's ever expanding power, will lose. So will Viktor Pokhmelkin, who has been a consistent voice against corruption in law enforcement. Putin is about to sweep away the last vestiges of opposition. The election rules he developed are too favorable to the person in control. He has a firm grip on the Russian news media and over all the agencies of government.

United Russia, the party created by Putin will sweep into victory and sweep out nearly all significant opposition.

Mironov is quoted by the NY Times as saying: "I think the television broadcasts from the United Russia convention remind a lot of people of long-forgotten pictures from the era of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union."

Now, here's what may be happening. Constitutionally, Putin cannot run again next year. He's already served two consecutive terms. If the base of power gets transferred to his political party, however, Putin could become its powerful chairman and still essentially run the country. In such a position, and possibly combining it with the Prime Minister's position, Putin would become far more powerful than the next President of Russia.

Make no mistake! Russia's economy is relatively strong right now. Russia is freer than it was under communism. Many Russians credit Putin for this and his approval rating is very high. Yet, the incredible height and force of power that he is creating in one office of government is frighteningly reminiscent of past Soviet history.

What has all this to do with America and with you and me? Good question. I'm proud of you for asking. For almost seven years we have had an administration manipulating the strings of government that has essentially divorced itself from foreign policy issues. It has had no influence over Russian government and has not even been able to suggest more favorable and democratic policy. We have had no allies that we could rally as a counter-point to Putin's policy.

America loves to call itself the most powerful nation on the globe. What makes for power? History has shown us that it is far more than the single element of military dominance. Our problem is a current occupant of the White House who does not read and does not understand history.

One can only hope that Americans are learning just how incredibly powerful the individual vote is in determining the future history of our nation and that of many others. Our next President must be capable in matters of foreign policy. We must never again elect a dummy to that great office.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Ann Coulter Simply Goes toooooooo Far

What'd she say? Huh? Are you kiddin' me?
Why do people listen to her?
by Charlie Leck

Are you as sick as I about the comments of Ann Coulter in the last couple of days? My god, the woman is absolutely crazy. I've accepted her methods of getting attention in the past and I've even thought her clever on some occasions when she blasts her way on to the front page through the use of classic profanity and outrageous shock techniques.

Now she's teetering on hate mongering!

The frightening thing is that what she is saying is not terribly different than what a lot of right-wing, evangelical preachers are also saying – though in perhaps more subtle ways.

"Jews should be perfected!" Are you kidding me? Will Ann Coulter be the judge of when any one of us reaches perfection? This is somewhat outrageous, but she hadn't reached her climax with that! The moment was still ahead.

America would be a better place if Judaism was "thrown away" and America was totally Christian! [
See the video of Coulter on the Donny Deutsch show!]

Is she not the wildest nut-bag in our nation? Does she hate diversity? Does she have any idea about what made us a great nation? Doesn't she understand what could pull us all down into the abyss?

Coulter was asked to describe the ideal America. "It would look like New York City during the Republican National Convention [2004]. In fact, that's what I think heaven is going to look like… People were happy!"

Why do people even listen to her? That's the question of the day. My answer may teeter on sexism. It's because she's a sexy babe! If some buck-toothed, pimply-faced, dirty-finger-nailed fellow from Alabama was saying this, he'd be put on the FBI's list of dangerous citizens. Believe me! If I was saying such things, I'd be put on the list! I'm probably on it because I suggested young people start giving our President "the finger." Ann Coulter just goes right on selling books, giving speeches to college graduates, and appearing on national television talk shows.

Andy Driscoll, on the Driscoll Newswire, says: "Ann Coulter is simply too damned pretty to be so incredibly insulting." He goes on to say that this is really the height of the drama of the "Beauty and the Beast."

This is the same Ann Coulter who was fired from the National Review (a blatantly conservative publication) when she submitted a column that proposed we invade Muslim countries, kill the leaders and convert them to Christianity.

Does it say something about our nation when one considers that Ann Coulter is "one of the leading political writers of our age?" [
David Carr, NY Times, on Ann Coulter]

Bob Wietrak, of Barnes & Noble has said:
"Every single book she has done has become an instant best-seller…Her fan base is phenomenal and she is in the media constantly. When she is in the media, it creates more media coverage. And every single day, the book sells more."

Why? Are we that sick? Do we want to hear her joke that Timothy McVeigh should have parked his truck in front of the NY Times building; that Cindy Sheehan, a grieving mother, is "a c-list celebrity trolling for a book deal;" or call Katie Couric "the affable Eva Braun?" Are we sick?

This is the woman who called John Edwards a faggot! That F-word is harsher and more obscene that the popularly known F-word. A few days after that utterance, she said the following about Edwards: "I've learned my lesson. If I'm gonna say anything about John Edwards in the future, I'll just wish he had been killed in a terrorist assassination plot."

I'm not kidding! She said it! She said it on ABC's Good Morning Show!

Is it that I just don't have a sense of humor? Is it? Tell me! Or is it that she just doesn't have any sense? And if she doesn't have any sense, why are hundreds of thousands of Americans devoutly listening to her and reading her? Tell me that it's crazy!

This is the woman who said bombing Iran would be good for our economy. You think I'm kidding? She said it on the
Fox News Cashin' In Show on September 15th of this year.

This is the same woman who chided single women on their voting stupidity.
Just last week she told the NY Observer: "If we took away women's right to vote, we'd never have to worry about another Democrat president. It's kind of a pipe dream, it's a personal fantasy of mine, but I don't think it's going to happen. And it is a good way of making the point that women are voting so stupidly, at least single women."

I'm telling you, I'm sitting here at my desk laughing my head off. The woman is a stitch. Now, I said "stitch!" How funny can one person be?

Only a couple of days ago, on "Tucker" on MSNBC, she referred to a long affair of John Edwards. Her source was the National Enquirer. Glad to learn she reads the heavy-duty stuff and believes it!

Perhaps, again, she was just being funny and I didn't get it.

Enough already! You get the picture! We can't take this woman off the air. We can't stop her from writing books. It's all about this freedom of speech thing that we have in this nation; but, get this, you don't have to listen to her and you don't have to read her. And, we can begin to make her out to be just what she is – a stupid, hateful, bigoted son-of-a-bitch!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Quiet Generation

Where are the courageous young?
by Charlie Leck

I was reading Tom Friedman's column on Wednesday (October 10) and found that he touched on something that has really been bothering me lately. Here's how he put it.

"I can report that the more I am around this generation of college students, the more I am both baffled and impressed… I am impressed because they are so much more optimistic and idealistic than they should be. I am baffled because they are so much less radical and politically engaged than they need to be."

That it! That's exactly what I've been trying to say about young people and about young clergyman. Where are they? Why aren't they outraged? Why aren't they on the streets demanding change? We've had a skunk of a President for over 6 years, running a frightful and dishonest administration that dragged us into a war based on incorrect information, lies and misinformation, and there is no outrage from the nation's youth and from the nation's clergy who are supposed to be prophets.

I am old now and I am supposed to be in my conservative years. I feel more liberal, progressive and radical than I've ever been. I'm damned tired of our nation going to war over the slightest of excuses. I'm disgusted that there is no outreach and diplomacy in times of international disagreement. I'm ashamed at the lack of support our country gives to the United Nations and its missions and objectives.

In the sixties, when we were young and filled with energy, dreams and hopes, we took to the streets to solve some of our shameful national errors. We disrupted the economy and the comfort of ordinary citizens in order to have our voices heard. We changed the nation's course and altered its direction. We were called disloyal and unpatriotic punks. We knew better! We knew what real patriotism was!

"No matter that patriotism is too often the refuge of scoundrels. Dissent, rebellion, and all-around hell-raising remain the true duty of patriots." Barbara Ehrenreich

And that's true. Patriotic citizens have a duty to rein in bad and excessive government. We can't go along with stupid and unjust wars. We have a patriotic duty to stand against what is wrong, unjust and outrageous. The war in Iraq was wrong! The way it was sold to the America public was unjust. The conduct of this war has been outrageous.

Yet where are the young today? Where is their anger, their outrage? Friedman calls them Generation Q, the quiet generation. He speaks proudly and positively of them and about the manner in which they seek to serve the nation and mankind:

"…they are also going abroad to build homes for the poor in El Salvador in record numbers or volunteering at AIDS clinics in record numbers. Not only has terrorism not deterred them from traveling; they are rolling up their sleeves and diving in deeper than ever. The Iraq war may be a mess, but I noticed at Auburn and Old Miss more than a few young men and women proudly wearing their R.O.T.C. uniforms. Many of those not going abroad have channeled their national service impulses into increasingly popular programs at home like "Teach for America," which has become to this generation what the Peace Corps was to mine."

Yet, as Friedman says, they are too quiet for their own good when they ought to be "spitting mad" at what debts and problems my generation is leaving their generation. Why are they so unconcerned?

Friedman asks why they aren't all over the current candidates about the war – and global warming – and reforming social security – and the deficit – and the possibility that they'll all be "working in China in twenty years."

The real question Friedman is asking of the young: Where is your courage? Are you too afraid to stand up to the bullies who have created these problems for our nation? Are you afraid of the struggle?

Have the young not read about Mickey Schwerner, Andrew Goodman and James Chaney? Has James Meredith been forgotten? Do they know about Kent State University? Do they know about Bobby Kennedy? Are the sixties forgotten?

I'm proud that my youngest is serving her country through her participation in the Teach for America program; yet I quietly wonder why she and my other kids aren't angry as hell. Why aren't college kids taking to the streets, demanding radical change? Why aren't they on the street in front of the White House, giving the President the finger? Why aren't they disrupting presidential debates, demanding real answers to real questions?

Do they lack the courage?

I remember being taken to jail in Canton, Mississippi, for jay walking. It was 1964 and it was hot in Mississippi. An officer of the law sat in a chair across from me and held a heavy, leather wrapped piece of iron in one hand and slapped it rhythmically into the palm of his other hand. I sweated profusely and felt like I would pee in my pants; however, I knew I was being terrorized and that both right and might were on my side. Thousands of us were sweeping over the state, courageously taking down racial injustice. Some of us would be trampled and some of us would die as Schwerner, Goodman and Cheney did, but we wouldn't be defeated.

And in '68 we poured into Chicago in the summertime and defied the angry Boss of the city. He sent out the heavy duty troops to confront us, but we got our message into the convention center and more than one Democrat rose and demanded that the Mayor cease and desist. We were right and we knew it! We were the courageous patriots and we knew it.

"The voice of protest...is never more needed than when the clamor of fife and drum...is bidding all men...obey in silence the tyrannous word of command."
Charles Eliot Norton

And where is America's courageous clergy? These are men and women trained to be prophets as well as priests? Where is their prophetic voice? Why are they silent? In the sixties it was a huge cadre of brave members of the clergy who led the movement into Mississippi and who took first to the streets to end the horrible war in the jungle? Have we no more prophets? Are they silent because they lack courage?

The Q-Generation is desperately needed at the front!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Writings of Thomas, the Disciple of Jesus

The earliest church was as divided about matters of faith
as the church of today!
by Charlie Leck

"I am the light that is over all things. I am all: from me all came forth, and to me all attained. Split a piece of wood; I am there. Lift up the stone, and you will find me there." (Gospel of Thomas, saying 77)
What I intend to establish here – or at least attempt to establish – is a fact routinely accepted by recognized historians of Christianity. There shouldn’t really be an argument about it, but I am certain there will be. Christianity is currently a divided faith. It is not divided into two parts, but into many, many parts; however, it is routinely described as a division between those who are literal and believe that there is only one way to salvation and those who are more universal in their approach to salvation and believe there are many diverse possibilities.

The point I would like to make here is that the faith has been ever so divided, even from its very earliest days shortly following the death of Jesus of Nazareth.

Many people today, who exist out on the more evangelical wing of the Christian faith and believe that their own way is the only way, are always citing the authority of scripture and proclaiming that the Bible is what gives them the certainty and justification to say such things.

There are a huge number of us who would argue that the New Testament, which these evangelicals are constantly citing, is simply a collection of writings, authorized nearly 300 years after the death of Jesus, which were declared as liturgical readings to be used in worship. The early bishops of the church established them, not as scripture, but, as appropriate holy readings and there was not universal agreement among those of the Christian faith that these specific readings should be the ones included. It was not even universally agreed that the four gospels selected should be the gospels chosen. The selection of these particular writings, rather than others, had an enormous impact on the development of the faith. Yet, a careful reading of these texts gives strong hints of an early disagreement among their authors about the main tenants of the faith. The writings of Paul, for instance, often clash with those writings that are often referred to as Petrine Epistles (letters of Peter and the other disciples).

There were many other documents that these early bishops excluded from the list of liturgical readings that were considered worthy of the attention of scholars and monks. There were still others that some bishops wished banned and burned even though they were popular and were widely read within the early Christian community. Many of these texts were being circulated across the entire Roman Empire. We often refer to them today as the “other gospels” or “the other New Testament documents.” Early Christians were enchanted by them and they were disturbed when the Archbishop of Alexandria ordered their destruction on Easter Day in 367. He wrote to Christians all over the empire, demanding that these texts be destroyed.

In obedience, many of the faithful of the church did as commanded and burned these important and historical documents. Others, however, attempted to save these writings for future generations. The best known incident of this is brought to our attention by the discovery of the Gnostic Gospels in 1945 at the ruins of a former Christian monastery in Egypt. Someone or some group of monks obviously disobeyed the archbishop’s instructions and placed many, many of these documents in a 6 foot high jar and buried the jar in a garden and place of prayer at the monastery.

Among these documents was the intriguing Gospel of Thomas.

My point here is that New Testament scripture was not selected by God, but by fallible men who picked some writings and neglected others because their choices served the contemporary and immediate interests of the organized church of that time. It is difficult to think of these texts as divinely inspired. For me, it is downright impossible to think of them as divine.

Two weeks ago I had the delicious opportunity to attend a Town Hall Forum at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Minneapolis, to hear Doctor Elaine Pagels speak about the The Gospel of Thomas. Let me just spend a moment commending Westminster Church for sponsoring these extraordinary forums. They bring to public attention some of the nation’s best and brightest to speak about some of the most important issues in society. If you want to learn more about them, go to the church’s web site and this section on their forums. You also can bring up an audio of Doctor Pagel’s remarks by going to the Westminster web site. If you want to find out more about Elaine Pagels, I sugges you go to the Religion & Pluralism website comments about her.

I’m not going to try to give you a report about Doctor Pagels' remarks. They were brilliant and it would be worth your time to listen to her. She does not refer to herself as a theologian (but she is). She calls herself a historian and biblical studies scholar. She’s a graduate of Stanford, a former graduate researcher at Barnard College and has a PhD from Harvard. She is currently a professor of religion at Princeton. As a youngster she was raised in the evangelical wing of the faith, among people who believed they knew the one and only way to be a Christian.

That wing of the Christian Church has always existed. Those of us who look more carefully at the matter realize that the faith has always, even from the very beginning, been made up of people of varying opinions on this matter of ‘the right way’ to be Christian.

I, of course, come down on the side of Thomas and Peter and the writer of the epistles of John (who was certainly a different person than the one who wrote the Gospel of John). This allows me a more universal approach to the faith and a belief in salvation that is far different than that of the evangelicals.

Salvation is not something found at the end of time or at the end of one’s life. Salvation is discovered through thoroughly knowing one’s self and one’s relation to that which is divine in the universe. For instance, I am very comfortable with this idea about which Thomas wrote in saying number 3:

"Jesus said, ‘If your leaders say to you, 'Look, the (Father's) kingdom is in the sky,' then the birds of the sky will precede you. If they say to you, 'It is in the sea,' then the fish will precede you. Rather, the (Father's) kingdom is within you and it is outside you. When you know yourselves, then you will be known, and you will understand that you are children of the living Father. But if you do not know yourselves, then you live in poverty, and you are the poverty.'"
As Doctor Pagels put it, Thomas was telling us that when we come to know who we really are, we realize how interconnected we are. “Who are you? How can you identify yourself? Where do you come from?” These are vital questions for Christians.

Thomas tells us that we come from the same light that was at the very beginning of all things. Who are we? Thomas says that Jesus proclaimed we are children of the light!

The great mistake of the evangelicals and their idea of exclusivity is that they give credit to God for having chosen the various writings that make up the New Testament. I repeat here that it is clear, historical fact that fallible and simpleton bishops of the early church made those decisions. And, the earliest of the church’s leaders had a huge impact on just how these writings were constructed. Many of the writings were altered and appended to make sure that the Christian faith was seen as the only way to ultimate salvation and relationship with God.

It does not appear that Jesus, himself, was looking at faith in that manner at all. The historical Jesus was concerned about one’s moment in life and how one lived that moment. The words about future salvation and the route to salvation were actually planted in the mouth of Jesus by the early church in an attempt to justify its own existence – an existence that Jesus might actually have questioned. I believe that the Jesus we find in both the biblical scriptures and the Gnostic ones is a man who would have condemned bishops and archbishops and the foolishness of the ceremonial church.

It is quite possible that the Gnostic writings are more pure in their representation of Jesus because they were probably unaltered by the later church. It also appears that the Gospel of Thomas was used as a source by the writers of Mathew and Mark. As Pagel pointed out, if you were to underline everything in the Thomas gospel that is also included in Mathew and Luke’s gospels, you would underline about one-third of the Thomas document.

What I want my evangelical friends to understand is that this arguments about what and who Jesus was have raged since the days immediately following his crucifixion, as his disciples and early followers tried to figure out what that holy man had been all about.

The same argument will continue to rage for centuries to come.

The important element that all these early proponents of Christianity seem to agree on – and something that we ought to agree on today – is that Jesus commanded us to love our fellow beings without reservation and that we would then show our love of God by so doing it.

The above is the one concept that evangelicals and universalists ought to be able to agree upon. It is something that all the gospel writers, Paul and the Petrine writers agreed on. And, the Gnostic writers (those recently discovered Christian writings) also agree about the matter. The greatest commandment is that we love one another – without reservation! Beyond that, there is nothing very certain about the Christian faith!

As for matters of salvation, I gladly leave that in the hands of God or history. I only know for sure that I will keep moving toward the light – the light that was in the very beginning and the light that shall be there at the very end. If, at the end, I am blessed with eternal sleep, I will be one happy fellow! Should I meet up with God and be asked what I did with my life, I shall proudly tell the remarkable Creator that I tried to do as Jesus told me; that is, I tried to love all of humanity without reservation. In that I’ll take my chances!

“His disciples said to him, ‘When will the rest for the dead take place, and when will the new world come?’ He said to them, ‘What you are looking forward to has come, but you don't know it.’" Gospel of Thomas: saying 51

For those of you who are interested in looking through it, I include here the text of the Gospel of the Disciple Thomas
The Nag Hammadi Library

The Gospel of Thomas
(Translated by Stephen Patterson and Marvin Meyer)
[Visit the Gospel of Thomas Collection for additional information]

These are the secret sayings that the living Jesus spoke and Didymos Judas Thomas recorded.

1. And he said, "Whoever discovers the interpretation of these sayings will not taste death."

2. Jesus said, "Those who seek should not stop seeking until they find. When they find, they will be disturbed. When they are disturbed, they will marvel, and will reign over all. [And after they have reigned they will rest.]"

3. Jesus said, "If your leaders say to you, 'Look, the (Father's) kingdom is in the sky,' then the birds of the sky will precede you. If they say to you, 'It is in the sea,' then the fish will precede you. Rather, the (Father's) kingdom is within you and it is outside you. When you know yourselves, then you will be known, and you will understand that you are children of the living Father. But if you do not know yourselves, then you live in poverty, and you are the poverty."

4. Jesus said, "The person old in days won't hesitate to ask a little child seven days old about the place of life, and that person will live. For many of the first will be last, and will become a single one."

5. Jesus said, "Know what is in front of your face, and what is hidden from you will be disclosed to you. For there is nothing hidden that will not be revealed. [And there is nothing buried that will not be raised.]"

6. His disciples asked him and said to him, "Do you want us to fast? How should we pray? Should we give to charity? What diet should we observe?" Jesus said, "Don't lie, and don't do what you hate, because all things are disclosed before heaven. After all, there is nothing hidden that will not be revealed, and there is nothing covered up that will remain undisclosed."

7. Jesus said, "Lucky is the lion that the human will eat, so that the lion becomes human. And foul is the human that the lion will eat, and the lion still will become human."

8. And he said, "The person is like a wise fisherman who cast his net into the sea and drew it up from the sea full of little fish. Among them the wise fisherman discovered a fine large fish. He threw all the little fish back into the sea, and easily chose the large fish. Anyone here with two good ears had better listen!"

9. Jesus said, "Look, the sower went out, took a handful (of seeds), and scattered (them). Some fell on the road, and the birds came and gathered them. Others fell on rock, and they didn't take root in the soil and didn't produce heads of grain. Others fell on thorns, and they choked the seeds and worms ate them. And others fell on good soil, and it produced a good crop: it yielded sixty per measure and one hundred twenty per measure."

10. Jesus said, "I have cast fire upon the world, and look, I'm guarding it until it blazes."

11. Jesus said, "This heaven will pass away, and the one above it will pass away. The dead are not alive, and the living will not die. During the days when you ate what is dead, you made it come alive. When you are in the light, what will you do? On the day when you were one, you became two. But when you become two, what will you do?"

12. The disciples said to Jesus, "We know that you are going to leave us. Who will be our leader?" Jesus said to them, "No matter where you are you are to go to James the Just, for whose sake heaven and earth came into being."

13. Jesus said to his disciples, "Compare me to something and tell me what I am like."
Simon Peter said to him, "You are like a just messenger."
Matthew said to him, "You are like a wise philosopher."
Thomas said to him, "Teacher, my mouth is utterly unable to say what you are like."
Jesus said, "I am not your teacher. Because you have drunk, you have become intoxicated from the bubbling spring that I have tended."
And he took him, and withdrew, and spoke three sayings to him. When Thomas came back to his friends they asked him, "What did Jesus say to you?"
Thomas said to them, "If I tell you one of the sayings he spoke to me, you will pick up rocks and stone me, and fire will come from the rocks and devour you."

14. Jesus said to them, "If you fast, you will bring sin upon yourselves, and if you pray, you will be condemned, and if you give to charity, you will harm your spirits.
When you go into any region and walk about in the countryside, when people take you in, eat what they serve you and heal the sick among them.
After all, what goes into your mouth will not defile you; rather, it's what comes out of your mouth that will defile you."

15. Jesus said, "When you see one who was not born of woman, fall on your faces and worship. That one is your Father."

16. Jesus said, "Perhaps people think that I have come to cast peace upon the world. They do not know that I have come to cast conflicts upon the earth: fire, sword, war. For there will be five in a house: there'll be three against two and two against three, father against son and son against father, and they will stand alone."

17. Jesus said, "I will give you what no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, what no hand has touched, what has not arisen in the human heart."

18. The disciples said to Jesus, "Tell us, how will our end come? Jesus said, "Have you found the beginning, then, that you are looking for the end? You see, the end will be where the beginning is. Congratulations to the one who stands at the beginning: that one will know the end and will not taste death."

19. Jesus said, "Congratulations to the one who came into being before coming into being. If you become my disciples and pay attention to my sayings, these stones will serve you. For there are five trees in Paradise for you; they do not change, summer or winter, and their leaves do not fall. Whoever knows them will not taste death."

20. The disciples said to Jesus, "Tell us what Heaven's kingdom is like." He said to them, "It's like a mustard seed, the smallest of all seeds, but when it falls on prepared soil, it produces a large plant and becomes a shelter for birds of the sky."

21. Mary said to Jesus, "What are your disciples like?"
He said, "They are like little children living in a field that is not theirs. When the owners of the field come, they will say, 'Give us back our field.' They take off their clothes in front of them in order to give it back to them, and they return their field to them. For this reason I say, if the owners of a house know that a thief is coming, they will be on guard before the thief arrives and will not let the thief break into their house (their domain) and steal their possessions. As for you, then, be on guard against the world. Prepare yourselves with great strength, so the robbers can't find a way to get to you, for the trouble you expect will come. Let there be among you a person who understands. When the crop ripened, he came quickly carrying a sickle and harvested it. Anyone here with two good ears had better listen!"

22. Jesus saw some babies nursing. He said to his disciples, "These nursing babies are like those who enter the (Father's) kingdom." They said to him, "Then shall we enter the (Father's) kingdom as babies?" Jesus said to them, "When you make the two into one, and when you make the inner like the outer and the outer like the inner, and the upper like the lower, and when you make male and female into a single one, so that the male will not be male nor the female be female, when you make eyes in place of an eye, a hand in place of a hand, a foot in place of a foot, an image in place of an image, then you will enter [the kingdom]."

23. Jesus said, "I shall choose you, one from a thousand and two from ten thousand, and they will stand as a single one."

24. His disciples said, "Show us the place where you are, for we must seek it." He said to them, "Anyone here with two ears had better listen! There is light within a person of light, and it shines on the whole world. If it does not shine, it is dark."

25. Jesus said, "Love your friends like your own soul, protect them like the pupil of your eye."

26. Jesus said, "You see the sliver in your friend's eye, but you don't see the timber in your own eye. When you take the timber out of your own eye, then you will see well enough to remove the sliver from your friend's eye."

27. "If you do not fast from the world, you will not find the (Father's) kingdom. If you do not observe the sabbath as a sabbath you will not see the Father."

28. Jesus said, "I took my stand in the midst of the world, and in flesh I appeared to them. I found them all drunk, and I did not find any of them thirsty. My soul ached for the children of humanity, because they are blind in their hearts and do not see, for they came into the world empty, and they also seek to depart from the world empty. But meanwhile they are drunk. When they shake off their wine, then they will change their ways."

29. Jesus said, "If the flesh came into being because of spirit, that is a marvel, but if spirit came into being because of the body, that is a marvel of marvels. Yet I marvel at how this great wealth has come to dwell in this poverty."

30. Jesus said, "Where there are three deities, they are divine. Where there are two or one, I am with that one."

31. Jesus said, "No prophet is welcome on his home turf; doctors don't cure those who know them."

32. Jesus said, "A city built on a high hill and fortified cannot fall, nor can it be hidden."

33. Jesus said, "What you will hear in your ear, in the other ear proclaim from your rooftops. After all, no one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, nor does one put it in a hidden place. Rather, one puts it on a lamp stand so that all who come and go will see its light."

34. Jesus said, "If a blind person leads a blind person, both of them will fall into a hole."

35. Jesus said, "One can't enter a strong person's house and take it by force without tying his hands. Then one can loot his house."

36. Jesus said, "Do not fret, from morning to evening and from evening to morning, [about your food--what you're going to eat, or about your clothing--] what you are going to wear. [You're much better than the lilies, which neither card nor spin. As for you, when you have no garment, what will you put on? Who might add to your stature? That very one will give you your garment.]"

37. His disciples said, "When will you appear to us, and when will we see you?" Jesus said, "When you strip without being ashamed, and you take your clothes and put them under your feet like little children and trample then, then [you] will see the son of the living one and you will not be afraid."

38. Jesus said, "Often you have desired to hear these sayings that I am speaking to you, and you have no one else from whom to hear them. There will be days when you will seek me and you will not find me."

39. Jesus said, "The Pharisees and the scholars have taken the keys of knowledge and have hidden them. They have not entered nor have they allowed those who want to enter to do so. As for you, be as sly as snakes and as simple as doves."

40. Jesus said, "A grapevine has been planted apart from the Father. Since it is not strong, it will be pulled up by its root and will perish."

41. Jesus said, "Whoever has something in hand will be given more, and whoever has nothing will be deprived of even the little they have."

42. Jesus said, "Be passersby."

43. His disciples said to him, "Who are you to say these things to us?" "You don't understand who I am from what I say to you. Rather, you have become like the Judeans, for they love the tree but hate its fruit, or they love the fruit but hate the tree."

44. Jesus said, "Whoever blasphemes against the Father will be forgiven, and whoever blasphemes against the son will be forgiven, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either on earth or in heaven."

45. Jesus said, "Grapes are not harvested from thorn trees, nor are figs gathered from thistles, for they yield no fruit. Good persons produce good from what they've stored up; bad persons produce evil from the wickedness they've stored up in their hearts, and say evil things. For from the overflow of the heart they produce evil."

46. Jesus said, "From Adam to John the Baptist, among those born of women, no one is so much greater than John the Baptist that his eyes should not be averted. But I have said that whoever among you becomes a child will recognize the (Father's) kingdom and will become greater than John."

47. Jesus said, "A person cannot mount two horses or bend two bows. And a slave cannot serve two masters, otherwise that slave will honor the one and offend the other. Nobody drinks aged wine and immediately wants to drink young wine. Young wine is not poured into old wineskins, or they might break, and aged wine is not poured into a new wineskin, or it might spoil. An old patch is not sewn onto a new garment, since it would create a tear."

48. Jesus said, "If two make peace with each other in a single house, they will say to the mountain, 'Move from here!' and it will move."

49. Jesus said, "Congratulations to those who are alone and chosen, for you will find the kingdom. For you have come from it, and you will return there again."

50. Jesus said, "If they say to you, 'Where have you come from?' say to them, 'We have come from the light, from the place where the light came into being by itself, established [itself], and appeared in their image.' If they say to you, 'Is it you?' say, 'We are its children, and we are the chosen of the living Father.' If they ask you, 'What is the evidence of your Father in you?' say to them, 'It is motion and rest.'"

51. His disciples said to him, "When will the rest for the dead take place, and when will the new world come?" He said to them, "What you are looking forward to has come, but you don't know it."

52. His disciples said to him, "Twenty-four prophets have spoken in Israel, and they all spoke of you." He said to them, "You have disregarded the living one who is in your presence, and have spoken of the dead."

53. His disciples said to him, "Is circumcision useful or not?" He said to them, "If it were useful, their father would produce children already circumcised from their mother. Rather, the true circumcision in spirit has become profitable in every respect."

54. Jesus said, "Congratulations to the poor, for to you belongs Heaven's kingdom."

55. Jesus said, "Whoever does not hate father and mother cannot be my disciple, and whoever does not hate brothers and sisters, and carry the cross as I do, will not be worthy of me."

56. Jesus said, "Whoever has come to know the world has discovered a carcass, and whoever has discovered a carcass, of that person the world is not worthy."

57 Jesus said, "The Father's kingdom is like a person who has [good] seed. His enemy came during the night and sowed weeds among the good seed. The person did not let the workers pull up the weeds, but said to them, 'No, otherwise you might go to pull up the weeds and pull up the wheat along with them.' For on the day of the harvest the weeds will be conspicuous, and will be pulled up and burned."

58. Jesus said, "Congratulations to the person who has toiled and has found life."

59. Jesus said, "Look to the living one as long as you live, otherwise you might die and then try to see the living one, and you will be unable to see."

60. He saw a Samaritan carrying a lamb and going to Judea. He said to his disciples, "that person ... around the lamb." They said to him, "So that he may kill it and eat it." He said to them, "He will not eat it while it is alive, but only
after he has killed it and it has become a carcass." They said, "Otherwise he can't do it." He said to them, "So also with you, seek for yourselves a place for rest, or you might become a carcass and be eaten."

61. Jesus said, "Two will recline on a couch; one will die, one will live."
Salome said, "Who are you mister? You have climbed onto my couch and eaten from my table as if you are from someone."
Jesus said to her, "I am the one who comes from what is whole. I was granted from the things of my Father. I am your disciple. For this reason I say, if one is whole, one will be filled with light, but if one is divided, one will be filled with darkness."

62. Jesus said, "I disclose my mysteries to those [who are worthy] of [my] mysteries.

63 Jesus said, "There was a rich person who had a great deal of money. He said, 'I shall invest my money so that I may sow, reap, plant, and fill my storehouses with produce, that I may lack nothing.' These were the things he was thinking in his heart, but that very night he died. Anyone here with two ears had better listen!"

64. Jesus said, "A person was receiving guests. When he had prepared the dinner, he sent his slave to invite the guests.
The slave went to the first and said to that one, 'My master invites you.' That one said, 'Some merchants owe me money; they are coming to me tonight. I have to go and give them instructions. Please excuse me from dinner.'
The slave went to another and said to that one, 'My master has invited you.' That one said to the slave, 'I have bought a house, and I have been called away for a day. I shall have no time.'
The slave went to another and said to that one, 'My master invites you.' That one said to the slave, 'My friend is to be married, and I am to arrange the banquet. I shall not be able to come. Please excuse me from dinner.'
The slave went to another and said to that one, 'My master invites you.' That one said to the slave, 'I have bought an estate, and I am going to collect the rent. I shall not be able to come. Please excuse me.'
The slave returned and said to his master, 'Those whom you invited to dinner have asked to be excused.' The master said to his slave, 'Go out on the streets and bring back whomever you find to have dinner.'
Buyers and merchants [will] not enter the places of my Father."

65. He said, "A [...] person owned a vineyard and rented it to some farmers, so they could work it and he could collect its crop from them. He sent his slave so the farmers would give him the vineyard's crop. They grabbed him, beat him, and almost killed him, and the slave returned and told his master. His master said, 'Perhaps he didn't know them.' He sent another slave, and the farmers beat that one as well. Then the master sent his son and said, 'Perhaps they'll show my son some respect.' Because the farmers knew that he was the heir to the vineyard, they grabbed him and killed him. Anyone here with two ears had better listen!"

66. Jesus said, "Show me the stone that the builders rejected: that is the keystone."

67. Jesus said, "Those who know all, but are lacking in themselves, are utterly lacking."

68. Jesus said, "Congratulations to you when you are hated and persecuted; and no place will be found, wherever you have been persecuted."

69. Jesus said, "Congratulations to those who have been persecuted in their hearts: they are the ones who have truly come to know the Father.
Congratulations to those who go hungry, so the stomach of the one in want may be filled."

70. Jesus said, "If you bring forth what is within you, what you have will save you. If you do not have that within you, what you do not have within you [will] kill you."

71. Jesus said, "I will destroy [this] house, and no one will be able to build it [...]."

72. A [person said] to him, "Tell my brothers to divide my father's possessions with me."
He said to the person, "Mister, who made me a divider?"
He turned to his disciples and said to them, "I'm not a divider, am I?"

73. Jesus said, "The crop is huge but the workers are few, so beg the harvest boss to dispatch workers to the fields."

74. He said, "Lord, there are many around the drinking trough, but there is nothing in the well."

75. Jesus said, "There are many standing at the door, but those who are alone will enter the bridal suite."

76. Jesus said, "The Father's kingdom is like a merchant who had a supply of merchandise and found a pearl. That merchant was prudent; he sold the merchandise and bought the single pearl for himself.
So also with you, seek his treasure that is unfailing, that is enduring, where no moth comes to eat and no worm destroys."

77. Jesus said, "I am the light that is over all things. I am all: from me all came forth, and to me all attained. Split a piece of wood; I am there. Lift up the stone, and you will find me there."

78. Jesus said, "Why have you come out to the countryside? To see a reed shaken by the wind? And to see a person dressed in soft clothes, [like your] rulers and your powerful ones? They are dressed in soft clothes, and they cannot understand truth."

79. A woman in the crowd said to him, "Lucky are the womb that bore you and the breasts that fed you."
He said to [her], "Lucky are those who have heard the word of the Father and have truly kept it. For there will be days when you will say, 'Lucky are the womb that has not conceived and the breasts that have not given milk.'"

80. Jesus said, "Whoever has come to know the world has discovered the body, and whoever has discovered the body, of that one the world is not worthy."

81. Jesus said, "Let one who has become wealthy reign, and let one who has power renounce ."

82. Jesus said, "Whoever is near me is near the fire, and whoever is far from me is far from the (Father's) kingdom."

83. Jesus said, "Images are visible to people, but the light within them is hidden in the image of the Father's light. He will be disclosed, but his image is hidden by his light."

84. Jesus said, "When you see your likeness, you are happy. But when you see your images that came into being before you and that neither die nor become visible, how much you will have to bear!"

85. Jesus said, "Adam came from great power and great wealth, but he was not worthy of you. For had he been worthy, [he would] not [have tasted] death."

86. Jesus said, "[Foxes have] their dens and birds have their nests, but human beings have no place to lay down and rest."

87. Jesus said, "How miserable is the body that depends on a body, and how miserable is the soul that depends on these two."

88. Jesus said, "The messengers and the prophets will come to you and give you what belongs to you. You, in turn, give them what you have, and say to yourselves, 'When will they come and take what belongs to them?'"

89. Jesus said, "Why do you wash the outside of the cup? Don't you understand that the one who made the inside is also the one who made the outside?"

90. Jesus said, "Come to me, for my yoke is comfortable and my lordship is gentle, and you will find rest for yourselves."

91. They said to him, "Tell us who you are so that we may believe in you."
He said to them, "You examine the face of heaven and earth, but you have not come to know the one who is in your presence, and you do not know how to examine the present moment."

92. Jesus said, "Seek and you will find.
In the past, however, I did not tell you the things about which you asked me then. Now I am willing to tell them, but you are not seeking them."

93. "Don't give what is holy to dogs, for they might throw them upon the manure pile. Don't throw pearls [to] pigs, or they might ... it [...]."

94. Jesus [said], "One who seeks will find, and for [one who knocks] it will be opened."

95. [Jesus said], "If you have money, don't lend it at interest. Rather, give [it] to someone from whom you won't get it back."

96. Jesus [said], "The Father's kingdom is like [a] woman. She took a little leaven, [hid] it in dough, and made it into large loaves of bread. Anyone here with two ears had better listen!"

97. Jesus said, "The [Father's] kingdom is like a woman who was carrying a [jar] full of meal. While she was walking along [a] distant road, the handle of the jar broke and the meal spilled behind her [along] the road. She didn't know it; she hadn't noticed a problem. When she reached her house, she put the jar down and discovered that it was empty."

98. Jesus said, "The Father's kingdom is like a person who wanted to kill someone powerful. While still at home he drew his sword and thrust it into the wall to find out whether his hand would go in. Then he killed the powerful one."

99. The disciples said to him, "Your brothers and your mother are standing outside."
He said to them, "Those here who do what my Father wants are my brothers and my mother. They are the ones who will enter my Father's kingdom."

100. They showed Jesus a gold coin and said to him, "The Roman emperor's people demand taxes from us."
He said to them, "Give the emperor what belongs to the emperor, give God what belongs to God, and give me what is mine."

101. "Whoever does not hate [father] and mother as I do cannot be my [disciple], and whoever does [not] love [father and] mother as I do cannot be my [disciple]. For my mother [...], but my true [mother] gave me life."

102. Jesus said, "Damn the Pharisees! They are like a dog sleeping in the cattle manger: the dog neither eats nor [lets] the cattle eat."

103. Jesus said, "Congratulations to those who know where the rebels are going to attack. [They] can get going, collect their imperial resources, and be prepared before the rebels arrive."

104. They said to Jesus, "Come, let us pray today, and let us fast."
Jesus said, "What sin have I committed, or how have I been undone? Rather, when the groom leaves the bridal suite, then let people fast and pray."

105. Jesus said, "Whoever knows the father and the mother will be called the child of a whore."

106. Jesus said, "When you make the two into one, you will become children of Adam, and when you say, 'Mountain, move from here!' it will move."

107. Jesus said, "The (Father's) kingdom is like a shepherd who had a hundred sheep. One of them, the largest, went astray. He left the ninety-nine and looked for the one until he found it. After he had toiled, he said to the sheep, 'I love you more than the ninety-nine.'"

108. Jesus said, "Whoever drinks from my mouth will become like me; I myself shall become that person, and the hidden things will be revealed to him."

109. Jesus said, "The (Father's) kingdom is like a person who had a treasure hidden in his field but did not know it. And [when] he died he left it to his [son]. The son [did] not know about it either. He took over the field and sold it. The buyer went plowing, [discovered] the treasure, and began to lend money at interest to whomever he wished."

110. Jesus said, "Let one who has found the world, and has become wealthy, renounce the world."

111. Jesus said, "The heavens and the earth will roll up in your presence, and whoever is living from the living one will not see death."
Does not Jesus say, "Those who have found themselves, of them the world is not worthy"?

112. Jesus said, "Damn the flesh that depends on the soul. Damn the soul that depends on the flesh."

113. His disciples said to him, "When will the kingdom come?"
"It will not come by watching for it. It will not be said, 'Look, here!' or 'Look, there!' Rather, the Father's kingdom is spread out upon the earth, and people don't see it."
[Saying probably added to the original collection at a later date:]

114. Simon Peter said to them, "Make Mary leave us, for females don't deserve life."
Jesus said, "Look, I will guide her to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every female who makes herself male will enter the kingdom of Heaven."

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Recharging the Batteries in Chicago

We visited two of the grandkids last week!
by Charlie Leck

We traveled to Chicago last week. Anne was involved in a continuing education program. We decided to make a vacation out of it – something we really haven't had in quite some time (at least, one by ourselves). Anne made the arrangements and decided to treat us to first class air travel, a private car from the airport, a suite at the hotel and some delectable privacy. The hotel, just a block off Michigan Avenue (the Magnificent Mile) was very elegant and extremely comfortable. We enjoyed four nights there. We had a grand time getting to know some of the wonders of Chicago, an extremely fabulous city with which to acquaint one's self.

Chicago is a very livable city and one can see why so many residential units are being built immediately downtown. We had the pleasure of visiting one condo unit that looked out over Lake Michigan and, slightly to the left, the recently remodeled Soldiers Field. Small shops, like grocers and hardware stores, abound and have a friendly and helpful attitude. And, as you know, there are dining establishments of every type and sort throughout the vast city.

Anne enjoyed the pleasant, daily, 6 block walk up Michigan Avenue and then the short stroll to the East to Northwestern University's Chicago campus. Of course, during the day, while Anne was in class, I taxied to Union Station and took the Metra Train out south to spend the day with my daughter and grandkids. What a treat! I wish I could see them more. Like any proud grandpa, I had my camera along and shot some wonderful photographs. And, like any pompous grandpappy, I've assumed you'd be interested and included a couple of them here for you to look over.

In the evenings, Anne and I wandered up and down Rush Street and Wacker Avenue, looking at all the folks enjoying Chicago's lively night-life. We found some terrific places to dine. Chicago "at night" is just an extraordinary place. Not that I'm any great judge, but I find it a better night life city than Las Vegas, New Orleans, San Francisco and Boston. Only New York offers more choices.

Refreshed, and with this vacation time behind me, tomorrow I will write more seriously – about the great divide in Christianity and about how it is nothing new. It began only a few years after Jesus died. It continues.