Sunny Days in Heaven
Spiritual/Political/Philosophical Blog on the Nature of Truth and Falsehood and Heaven

Saturday, April 06, 2002  

Parable of the Unhappy Prophet

A prophet walked among his people
to fetch some water. They cursed at him because
he could not heal the sick, nor feed the poor,
nor promise pleasures ever after.

And so his people cursed at him and spat
upon the ground as he walked by. He could
not please and so he was reviled.

There was
a time, when full of God's light and glow,
he spoke to all he knew of what stupendous love
that they were loved by God.

People said, "Good,
but what about my health and wealth, and wish
for many wives in paradise?" The prophet
shrugged. "Of that, how should I know; but let me
tell you once again that you are loved. Like
a future king and hero of the world,
we have a destiny of peace and perfection
that makes this world's gold look like dust."

"Give us
that dust and we will have the rest," the people said.
"Then you shall truly die. No good will come
of all you wish. Not even death will bring
you peace. Yet shall you live - the walking dead."

And so they cursed and spat. They said, "This man
does not speak for God but for the Devil.
He has nothing good to say or do for us.
Let him go to hell. He is a curse to all."

posted by Mark Butterworth | 11:57 AM |

A Brief Psalm

I saw a leaf, and it was full of green.
I saw a sky, and it was full of blue.
I saw a sun, and it was full of gold.
I saw a child, and she was full of God.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 11:50 AM |

Friday, April 05, 2002  


That reminds me that when I was in Crete, every third guy was named Manolis. A friend got us all laughing at the bar as he did a soccer play by play of the Greek team. "Manolis has the ball. He passes to Manolis. Manolis dribbles up the field where he kicks it to Manolis. Manolis heads the ball over to Manolis. Manolis scores!"

It was funny at the time, but we might have had a few by then.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 9:01 PM |


Don't know if anyone noticed but the blog below was from Mark to Mark to Mark. That's a pretty good run of markings.

The name Mark once had a great run in hsitory as one of the most benign names for men. Want to have a real nice man for a son? Name him Mark. That was until Mark Chapman killed John Lennon. Then there was some other psycho named Mark soon after. But we've had a good run since then as a race of decent and nice guys.

Remember Mark this spot!

posted by Mark Butterworth | 8:44 PM |

American Appeasement

Mark Byron links to Mark Steyn today on a good column about Western apeasement.

The point I want to make is this: Since when do we worry about what France thinks and do we really want Arab or Muslim street mobs to direct our foriegn policies?

The networks say that Bush responded to European pressure and the Arab street to tell Israel to cool its jets. But it's really only France that is most vocal and adversarial towards us, the U.S.. Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Spain - we're not hearing too many fierce objections from those countries. France leads the pack with its rabid anti-Israel, anti-semitic fomentations.

The Saudis tell us that if we don't do something we will never be allowed to do anything from Saudi soil against Iraq (which means our present fly overs and interdictions in the No Fly Zone). Why don't we tell them, "sorry, we're staying and doing as we please. You have a problem with that? Go ahead and try to move us."

Yet, Bush and Co. look more raggedy on policy and strategy every day. I had really hoped that Bush would be a great war leader, but I'm having serious doubts about his will to take the necessary risks. This is so biblical - "the people cry stability! stability! when there is no stability!"

I'm thinking John McCain may be the only fellow who's tough enough to get the job done.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 12:18 PM |

Settlements in Israel

After the '73 October War (that is the right year, isn't it?), Jewish settlements began to pop up in the West Bank. I thought this was rather provocative. Palestinians complained that land was seized illegally and cruelly rationalized by israel. I thought they had some basis for a grievance.

But last night after watching the news, it occurred to me that - wait a second! Why don't Jews have a right to live in their Holy and Ancestral Land? That's what the Palestinians claim for themselves - a right of return. The land the Jews build on is empty! How they acquired it, I don't know, but they are certainly improving it. If they want to live on land legally acquired, why shouldn't they?

posted by Mark Butterworth | 12:05 PM |

Jesus Only?

Christianity Today carried this article about Oneness Pentacostals opening with this paragraph:

The decisive word in the origins of "Jesus only" (or Oneness) Pentecostals is probably apostolic. Beginning about 1913, certain Pentecostal ministers began to ask, "What is the correct apostolic formula for baptizing believers?" Several ministers concluded that the correct formula, the one used by the apostles themselves, was found in Acts 2:38, where Peter proclaims, "Repent, and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins."

Further on is added:

This difference in the matter of words used during baptisms represents something far more important: a different view of the nature of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—what orthodox Christians refer to as the Trinity. If asked if they believe in God the Father, Son, and Spirit, all Oneness Pentecostals would answer yes. Like all Pentecostals, Oneness Pentecostals place great emphasis on the role of the Spirit in the Christian life. But to them, the traditional Christian view of the Trinity is dangerously close to tritheism—belief in three distinct gods. Their view is, as one of their authors has put it, "Christian monotheism."

Their theology is summed up as this:

But orthodox Christian theologians believe Oneness theology is guilty of the heresy of modalism. While orthodox Christian theologians often refer to the three "Persons" in the Trinity, Oneness authors speak of the three "manifestations" (or "offices") of the one God. They tend to connect the term person with the modern conception of the word—that is, a person is a distinct individual—which is why they see the orthodox view as being close to tritheism. Believing strongly in one undivided God, Oneness authors teach that the whole essential Godhead is present in Jesus (an idea supported by Colossians 2:9 and other passages).

I'm wondering if anyone has any thoughts on this rather uniques perspective and interpretation? All in all, I can't really find any major problem with it. I would put it under the category as a part of non-essential diversity in our faith. I can certainly understand the implied criticism that this take on baptism and the trinity makes.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 11:33 AM |

Blank Verse, Complete Notion

It's loneliness that drives the fear in men
and babes; that makes the will become a self
to feed upon distraction. We claim gifts
of heaven before we know their holiness
and wonder: marriage, children, friendship -
prematurely we leap from loneliness
to hope of happiness, and find it not.
We want ecstasy, a permanent bliss,
to drive our loneliness away forever.
It cannot be. We always fail, for God
is not as much an infinite pleasure
as ordinary time of peace; complacent,
bemused, and quiet in his drifting thoughts.
In men's eyes, God 's a dullard and a frown,
a killjoy and senile uncle. What
is light if all it does is shine and nothing more?

Loneliness wants pleasure not pardon.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 11:15 AM |

Newly Discovered Pericopes of Jesus! Kingdom of God similes.

The kingdom of heaven is like an old man who grows
younger and younger until he sinks back into the womb
and even then before his conception.

The kingdom of heaven is like a man, who, having met God,
awaits further instructions until he dies.

The kingdom of heaven is like a great scribe, a mighty expert of the law who begins to forget all he knows until he is as docile and helpless as a baby before other men because he now knows all.

The kingdom of heaven is like a small snake that sheds its skin many times until it is big enough to be noticed from heaven, and then silently and unseen, an eagle swoops upon it, carries it off to its nest in the sky, and devours it until nothing remains.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 11:11 AM |

More for your money. Less for your life.

Around 1961 or so I got my first "important" bike: a three speed Schwinn you could pedal backwards while it was coasting forwards. Very cool. It probably cost about $60. Today that would be at least $600.

Let me tell you what you can get for about $300 today. A 21 speed mountain bike made out of special alloys, unbelievable brakes, gears, and equipment. There is ten times the technology yet half the cost. Ten times the productivity in making the new bike.

Ever looked under the hood of a ‘57 Chevy? Nothing there but an engine and transmission. A good shade tree mechanic has no problem fixing almost anything on that car. You can probably fit three small people under the hood in the engine compartment.

Look under the hood of just about any modern sedan and you'll be lucky to fit three fingers of one hand anywhere in there. You see a wonder of technology fitted into a pretty small space. You can change the oil and air filters if you insist. You see ten times the engineering and product there in that car, again for about half the price. If memory serves the Chevy would have run about $3000 or over 30K today.

One question, though. Were those 60's products expensive or not considering the times? Well, the work had to support one man and his family - one income. In fact, I knew of journeyman machinists, a skilled blue collar job, where the man had up to five weeks of paid vacation a year after twenty years or so. He owned a home, a car, a second house on a lake, and a boat. He put his kids through college and had more than two of them.

How many working class people can do that now? A few. Plumbers, some machinists and tool and die makers are still in demand and earn good wages - up to 90K a year for some trades. But that's fairly unusual.

To have what my 60's machinist had (also a 4% mortgage), it now takes two incomes of professional, college educated people for the most part.

We are more productive as workers, no doubt, but we are also of less value in the marketplace. We have fewer children, but they are more neglected and left to raise themselves on TV, music, movies, fast food, and porn.

The 50's were better for people. Even those who were treated unequally. Negroes were generally much better off as a community. They had a high rate of marriages, low rate of illegitimacies. High rate of church attendance and community support, even if they couldn't sit at the same lunch counter. A better standard of education and success in it. In general, minorities were poorer financially, but much richer socially with good neighborhoods, stable communities, and strong values - belief in character. Government left us more alone to work out our own problems.

Today, our gadgets are incredible. Our science and medicine is miraculous, and our military is amazing in its growing capabilities. Yet, why do so many have a sense of decline and degeneration? It's not just fuddy-duddyism, us old farts lamenting the good old days.

Americans are still the most decent and friendliest people in the world, I think (but then I don't know what Norway, Sweden, or Ireland are like where life is pretty humdrum), still, something seems out of whack.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 11:09 AM |

Thursday, April 04, 2002  

I Love Being a Dad (I really do)

I have a seventeen year old daughter, Shana. She is beautiful, but she has not had any boys interested in her. Until now. There is a young man her age at her school whom she likes. I call him her beau since I can't say boyfriend which would imply a seriousness or deep romantic attachment which I don't quite think is there yet. (Never, I hope, at her age!)

Shana is going to the Junior Prom with said Boy. But not until I meet this fellow and have him for dinner. (Which is what his friends said would happen - that I'd eat him alive, as my daughter later told me the prior ribbing he got.)

Last night he was here and we had a nice meal. The fellow was earnest, seemed sincere, was polite, respectful, and able to talk without a lot of trouble. I approved of my daughter's choice. He did not at all appear to be an egotist, aggressive, or a user, but someone who was genuine in his like and interest in my precious Flower.

After he left and my daughter returned, she told me about her plans for Prom night. First, dinner at a Jamaican place then the dance; and then one of the fellows was going to have a co-ed sleep-over at his parent's house with his parents home. It would be a lot of fun.



"The answer is no, you can't attend the after prom party."


"I don't approve of co-ed sleep-overs."

My daughter did not throw a fit, but became tearful. Tried to reason me out of it, but I simply and kindly asserted that this was a subject not open to debate or examination of reasons. She would have to trust me about this and would understand better when older.

She basically accepted that, but was still deeply disappointed and gave me a great compliment, "Why do you have to be so caring and sensitive towards me? Why can't you be less concerned and more indifferent like my friends' parents?"

Frankly, I was a bit shocked about the whole thing. I know the parents who are sponsoring the after prom party. They are both church going Christians. Most of my daughter's friends are all church going Christians, but it seems like none of these parents can say, "No." Their kids are all pretty good kids, but only a fool allows young people to get into situations that might be compromising.

I couldn't explain yet to my daughter that making too much out of Prom night is foolish. It's just a dinner and a dance. Not a great rite of passage. It's meant to be benign and not a challenge. When young people think some night is supposed to be special and exalting, then they start thinking of ways to especially make it so. Alcohol or drugs might lift us up, they think, to a higher level of being. Sex is a big deal and supposed to be exalting, let's see how that works and if it's true.

They put extra pressure on themselves and each other to make more of something than it can possibly be, and then try to pump up the volume of pleasure or joy. It's not that I don't trust my daughter, but I don't place temptation right in front of her and dare her to resist, either.

Nor will her Senior Prom be any different I told her.

"But I'll be eighteen! An adult!"

"Yes, but in our house it's our rules. When you're on your own, your hours will be your own, too."

All this nonsense about limousines, hotel rooms, extremely late hours is terrible for the kids. Parents have got to start putting a stop to this stuff. It is very corrupting and insidious.

I have another problem, though. I would like to encourage my daughter to go camping with friends. Road trips and adventures outdoors are great confidence builders and safe ways to venture out into the world on a longer leash. I don't think the opportunity is as great for hanky panky when there's a crowd in a tent. Nor when so much of the experience is about working to meet the needs of eating, sightseeing, getting along, organizing, and supervising. Of course, the isolation is there and opportunity, but it seems a bit safer to me than my daughter in a champagne colored, strapless, satin evening gown that makes her look like a young Marilyn Monroe.

If anybody out there has a better idea for unsupervised, co-ed, camping trips for young people, email me, please.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 3:24 PM |

Third (and last) of the Newly Discovered Parables of Jesus!

The Parable of the Man who Lost Himself

The kingdom of heaven is like a man who was walking down a road on an errand one day. He was troubled in mind, for he was filled with the cares of life. A thief, seeing the man was alone, came upon him, greeted him in a friendly manner, but then struck him in the head by surprise.

The man fell as if dead. The thief stole his purse and his goods, and then ran off.

After awhile, the man came to his senses, but as he did so, he realized he did not know why he was on the ground on the road, nor where he was.

Fortunately for him, another man from his village came along and found him there. The first man asked where he was. The second man helped the first recover, and told him his name, his village, and then even his country. Realizing that his fellow was not right in his mind, he guided him home.

Once there, he sent for his fellow's parents, wife, children, brothers and sisters.

They told him his name and who they were to him, but he remembered nothing.

"What am I to do?" he said. "I don't know any of you."

They took him in and cared for him, but no memory returned, and he felt himself to be alone and a stranger to all.

One day, while out in the field working, he lapsed into despair, and fell to his knees, crying out, "I don't know anyone, and no one knows me! God, God, who am I?" And he threw his arms up in his plea.

God heard his prayer, reached out to him, embraced and consoled him and said, "You are mine."

The man rejoiced with this knowledge, but after God left his embrace, he realized that he still did not know his name. Even so, he returned from the field to his wife and said, "I did not know you 'til now. You are the woman I will care for and live with the rest of my life."

He went to his parents and children, brothers, sisters, and neighbors and spoke similarly to each of them; and he became content.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 12:39 PM |

A-blogging we will go.

Three new Catholic blogs that look promising. I will put links to the right.

Fool's Folly


Wounding Strokes

posted by Mark Butterworth | 12:31 PM |

More Merely Christianity

C.S. Lewis is a great mainstay and starting place for many beginning Christians (along with G.K. Chesterton). His book Mere Christianity boiled down for his time and since what basic Christianity is that Christians can agree on and still talk to each other.

That work was pivotal in helping to break down barriers between Confessions that had lasted for centuries. Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox, and Evangelicals are now able to dialog with one another (in the West, at least) without much animosity or proselytizing of each other.

There is still a lot of mistrust and suspicion toward Catholics by Evangelicals, but most of that is caused by lack of contact, I believe. When Evangelicals meet me and find out I love the same Jesus as they do, they relax considerably.

Just as the Reformation led to a serious examination of what Christianity must believe, I think there is a fresh opportunity to do the same today to Protestant Confession and traditional beliefs. One reason this is necessary, I believe, is because intellectual honesty requires it.

Doctrines based on certain premises no longer persuade enough serious people in the West. Scholarship and criticism have eliminated many previous bulwarks of faith for those who ask rigorous questions and refuse to accept answers based on Authority.

We've all encountered the missionary who demands belief from a skeptic based on the fact that it's all proven by the Bible. But when people don't believe that the Bible is anything more than another text, the persuasion fails badly.

I believe the Word is effective, but few "take up and read" as Augustine heard. Most avoid the Bible like a toothache; and having never been exposed to it in the general culture, are militantly resistant.

I think we need to become even more basic than the first apostles in proclaiming our Truth.

What Follows from Faith

The Resurrection of Jesus did two particular things. One, it created a series of natural deductions about the nature of God, our relation to him, and the nature of immortality. Two, it created a series of interpretations of the event and its meaning. Interpretations that must be seen in the light of what people already thought and suspected about God. We always interpret from what we know and not from radically new perceptions. Thus, Abraham's covenant with God is identical to the way covenants are made between people in his time; or Jesus is a sacrifice because that is how atonement is made in Jesus' time.

When it came time to wonder why or how God had acted as he did through Jesus, people were looking backwards for clues and not forwards where there were none. Everything was seen in light of the Hebrew Scriptures.

Some of the New Testament was a commentary, midrash, or exegesis on what was in the previous Scriptures; while now, our experience of God is filtered through the witness of the New Testament which is taken to be normative (however different groups view such norms).

What naturally follows from Faith, though?

If someone has had the seminal experience of a direct encounter (or convincing experience) with God as he is in Jesus, then certain truths must follow. 1) God is good, holy, and obviously real. 2) Death is not death. Humans are immortal. 3) God intervenes in human life. Love is essential. 4) God has a will (or natural quality of being) that can be discovered.

This is pretty much all that can be concluded from deduction and inference about God (and Jesus). Anything else becomes interpretation or speculation.

Paul tells us in 1 Cor. that Jesus is God, rose from the dead after being crucified (to prove it), and if you believe that, that's all you need to transform your life; because Paul understood that that knowledge changed everything about one's life and perceptions.

But then Paul added (along with the Church and what he'd been taught) that Jesus' death was an Atonement for our sins, a voluntary sacrifice. He lived in a sacrificial culture, though. Everyone believed without a second thought that God required sacrifices in one form or another as recompense for our evil. There is absolutely no justification for this belief other than tradition. The more spiritual and enlightened a child of God becomes, the more he believes that God "requires mercy, not sacrifices."

Nevertheless, Atonement was the first notion that seemed to occur to the Apostles to explain how God could have let himself be cruelly executed.

Reliability of Scripture.

I don't wish to go the Jesus Seminar route, but the fact is that Scripture is not a reliable source of history. Many do not also realize that many sayings of Jesus can only be recognized as either post- resurrection sayings or interpretations such as anything prophesying his death, resurrection, and the reason for the Passion.

Nor do many people seem to understand that "locutions" from the risen Jesus are not reliable sources of information about God. People enjoy speaking to Jesus today and swear by his instructions and conversations. I've read the dialogues that many saints or candidates for sainthood claim to have come directly from Jesus' mouth to their perception. A lot of it is simply ludicrous. Much of it purports to reveal Mary's place in Heaven and the Cosmos, or why praying the Rosary is so important. This is silly, and the "dialogue" must be originating more from a person's unconscious than from God. I believe that people may be experiencing grace, but not direct instructions. The NT is full of such direct instructions from Jesus, though, that could only have come after his death and reappearances.

People will say that the period of "public" revelation is over, but that's nonsense. All revelation is private. Until God descends on a cloud to all people at all times at once, anything we perceive about God is personal, private, and isolated (even if shared in a small group).

As the late, great scholar Raymond Brown wrote, "God doesn't write books. People write books."

The same is true about churches and sacraments. People create such things. But that doesn't mean that God doesn't use or inspire human institutions.

My parents and society directed me through 12 years of school, but I did not come to believe that school was created and sustained by God and that I must remain in it for my whole life. The Church (or churches) are like that. Facilitators of holiness and improvement. Whether we ever become wise enough to graduate in this life from them is debatable, but the fact remains, church is our school for faith.

The Trinity

The Christian identification of God in three persons is well known, of course. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

The encounter with Abba as Jesus had produces that identity for God without question (to any one who has "met" him that way). The appellation of the Holy Spirit is all we have to describe a very vague quality of another actual form of encounter with God which is Truth. The label of the Son, is completely misleading, though.

The encounter with Jesus is the meeting of a human who is also God. The Creed which tries to distinguish "begotten not made" is hopelessly inadequate since the words are synonyms - begotten means created or made. We have no possible way to distinguish the relationship of Jesus and the Father since they are One and yet separate. Co-eternal.

We call Jesus the Son because it is convenient to do so, but it's an otherwise meaningless term. It's an analogy that immediately breaks down with examination. (We also call him Son since it's in Scripture and the early church made it analogous. It's the only way they could wrap their minds around these apparent paradoxes.

Essentialism in Jesus

So a list of the things we can strip away from our Dogma and doctrines without harming Faith in the least are these:

1) Atonement. We don't need God's death to redeem us. We simply need to know God to be redeemed. Meet him and you love him and will have been "saved" from the Self.
2) God doesn't write books. Or form churches. People do. Inspiration is not dictation. The desire to organize and proclaim is natural. Love is like that.
3) Mary need not have been a virgin at any time in order to produce Jesus. There is no reason at all why God could not manifest himself through both Joseph and Mary bodies.
4) Jesus does not mystically appear in bread and wine transformed. Our faith does not depend on that at all.
5) Peter was not the first Pope.
6) Mary was sinlessly conceived and rose to heaven mysteriously.

I could go on about a few other things, but I think I've pretty well offended just about every kind of Christian there is with this brief list.


In conclusion, there is one great thing which is Absurd. A human being arose from death, manifesting himself to other human beings with the additional knowledge that it was God they were seeing and meeting. A man/God.

If one accepts this Absurd notion, one has discovered the essential seed of all Truth and Wisdom, Hope and Charity, Guidance and Joy.

What God doesn't do is gild the lily and try to get us to accept furthermore absurdities as if to say - if you'll swallow that whopper, have I got a list of others for you!

Why do Christians go along with the other notions, pious as they are? The first Absurdity is so wonderful and transforming that we want to belong to such a group that shares such stupendous and marvelous Truth. We thus submit to accept what the group wants us to in order to join and belong.

Now, maybe Essentialism will do nothing to remove obstacles from people who reject the lesser absurdities of Christian doctrines (God does get people to Faith anyway through the ages); but I can't help knowing that it would remove much infantilism from the church and believers themselves and improve their progress. We should always focus on what's important rather than having to try to explain doctrines that add nothing (really) to believe and practice.

If anyone should discover that God is Love and his name is Jesus, they will have grasped the most important thing of all from which transformation must follow (if the person chooses to act on his belief and seek help for improvement).

I will stop there for the time being.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 12:22 PM |

Louder Fenn (link to the right in column) is feeling a bit triumphant. He has concluded about faith in Jesus that, "the farther one gets from the Church (RCC, he means), the more one must depend on the exceptional and extraordinary graces of God."

Hmm, what if exceptional and extraordinary graces have led one into the RCC and then led one to realize it's just another church after all with its own slant on things?

The problem with extraordinary Truth claims is that they demand extraordinary proofs. The RCC can never prove itself extraordinary any more than the Quakers or Methodists can. God seems to not play favorites and parcels out miracles and justification for faith like a drunken billionaire who has just fallen in love with poverty.

I intend to focus on this notion in a long essay I am currently working on. Stay tuned.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 12:51 AM |

And kill them for their Shoes!

On the TV news tonight, NBC (I don't get cable so Fox doesn't happen) did a story about people paying extra yearly in order to get better treatment from doctors. Doctors, instead of having 6,000 patients (I had no idea it was so many) cut down to 600 and people get good and concerned patient care. They can get same day appointments when they're ill, and get to have their problems explained to them instead of given a xerox handout sheet.

What was the network slant? Glad you asked. The rich are getting something ordinary folks don't and that ain't right.

I go to doctors a lot. I have a chronic skin condition and see a doctor usually once a month because of powerful drugs I take along with blood tests. I also had a heart attack last year and so I see a cardiologist for that now.

My care, for the most part is adequate: no red carpet, but I've had some great doctors and good relationships with them but it is HMO care at a UC Davis system.

My treatment for my heart attack was miraculous and first rate at a private hospital. I've been to Crete and seen what small town care looks like there. Believe me, even the poorest person in America gets better care. They (I swear this is true, I saw it myself) don't have enough sheets. When a patient dies, the next one jumps into their still warm bed and used linen. And this is Greece. Not even a true Third World nation. Imagine Russia and shudder.

Now, for that personalized special care that only the rich can afford, do you know what it cost those patients per year? The extravagant sum of $1500. Yep. The kind of thing only millionaires can afford and ain't it shame that middle class folk could never have that.

The 10th commandment is thou shall not covet anything of thy neighbor's; yet NBC wants you to hate your neighbor for the obscene sum of $1500 which is getting him royal treatment for his ills and sicknesses.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 12:14 AM |

Wednesday, April 03, 2002  

A Case of the Slows

What's it take to light a fire under Bush? After 9/11 and 3,000 dead in NYC, it looked like Bush was going to Get Things Done. We overthrew the Taliban, but are now doing a slow dance there.

Has one single domestic initiative of his party not been shot down by the Dems? He let Pickering get skewered without putting up any kind of fight against the outrageous slander and character assassination from the Left.

Now he can't decide if Israel should kill terrorists or not.

Maybe what we have is an apple that doesn't fall far from the tree. George I let Saddam and Iraq off the hook, and now his son wants to let Arafat live to fight another day.

Day by day, Bush is squandering his political capital on a dithering approach to all matters domestic and foreign.

I'm all for calm, patience, and deliberation in a crisis, but the people need to be informed and involved - told what we're going to do, when and how we're going to do it, and then shown that it's gotten done.

As dramatic as the initial results seemed in Afghanistan, we have not destroyed al-Qaida nor the Taliban.

These piecemeal efforts at war and policy are simply killing our long term hopes and initial resolve for success.

Does anyone really believe the money for terrorists has dried up? Or that banks in the Muslim world are co-operating? Have any Arabs been jailed anywhere for giving money for terror? There's not a bank in the world the U.S. couldn't shut down if we wanted to. Why don't we want to?

We know arms are still moving through Iran (and probably Iraq, N. Korea, and maybe China).

We have thousands, if not tens of thousands of Muslim terrorist sympathizers and fellow travelers in this country - why haven't we deported them?

I believe that we need at least a million more men in uniform and the material and support systems to equip them for action so that we may move effectively an Iraq, Iran, Syria, Somalia, and Yemen if need be in rapid succession. We will have to occupy and reform these nations and that will take manpower.

We will pay for it as I suggest in the blog below.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 4:52 PM |

A Plan for Tribute

Isn't it time we started to ask the world to help pay for the defense we so freely provide and the benefits we do for mankind in science, medicine, space, communications, and the Pax Americana?

Therefore, I propose a tariff on imports. I have no idea how big the tariff should be. I should not be onerous, but enough to pay for our added costs for defense, particularly from those nations that contribute little or nothing to their own defense.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 4:49 PM |

The Second of the Newly Discovered Parables of Jesus!

The Parable of the Distant King

A man once lived in a small, remote corner of a great nation, far from the capitol and court. From time to time, tax collectors came into that man's part of the country. They demanded goods from him. They took a portion of his harvest and his livestock. The man always cursed the tax collectors as thieves. They protested that they merely did as the king commanded them.

"What king?" the man demanded to know. "All I ever see are you vultures who do nothing but live well off of my labor. For all I know, there is no king and never has been. What's more, if there is such a king as you say who takes my goods and makes me suffer so much loss, well, I hate that king then. He has never done anything good for me."

One day at the great court, during a banquet, a governor from that state, wishing to amuse the king, told him the story of that man and what he said to his tax collectors. He thought the court would find the peasant's ignorance astonishing.

The king was not amused, though. He said, "What should I do about this fool of a man? If I go in person to say I am his king, might he not say, 'all I see is another man like me who claims to be somebody, but who might be a liar and a rogue after all.' If I go in all my glory with an army and the entire court, might that man not say -'yes, you are a king but you might as well be a thief, for you take by force from one who is poor, and make yourself rich.' "

"Here is what I shall do. Go to this fool of a man and tell him he is right, there is no king, no ruler, and no law above him. Tell him he is free to pay no taxes to me, and may live only to serve himself. Then go to his neighbors and say to them that the other man is now his own law, country, and king. Tell them that that man has no treaty with their king and no law prevents them from taking his goods or his life."

"Let a fool doubt that I live and deny any good that I do for him, and see if he shall prosper in my kingdom."

posted by Mark Butterworth | 12:28 PM |

The Opinion Scoop was a double dip

In today's newspaper I read that Pakistan says "no" to our desire to cross the border in hot pursuit of bad guys. Our good friend, the General, tells us that "his own army and intel service can handle the task" according to Knight Ridder Newspapers.

Here is how you defang the great American war machine - join it as a collaberator and then refuse to go along with anything America needs to do to succeed.

I've been reading about the so-called Tribal areas of Pakistan which are essentially lawless. The government exercises no authority in the area; they've let the border be a sieve by taking bribes and looking the other way, and now claims they're capable of doing even more of the same.

With friends like these....

This is what is making me angry with Bush and Co. The backward creep away from decisive action and concerted pressure.

3,000 American souls murdered and we can't pursue the killers!

As I said before, what's the point of having the muscle if you won't use it when you need it most?

posted by Mark Butterworth | 11:17 AM |

Tuesday, April 02, 2002  

A New Psalm

Orange poppies shout out from green hillsides -
"joy joy joy!"

Barging bright, white clouds sail through deep blue skies -
"holy holy holy!"

Distant mountains rear up mantled in snow -
"glory glory glory!"

While humans work like slaves and play like fools.

Canyons glow like burning coals at sunset -
"fire fire fire!"

Rivers snake in a dark rush across plains -
"live live live!"

Seas heave blue shoulders up and hurl at rocks -
"sacred sacred sacred!"

While humans curse at God and murder time.

Dawn breaks open the new day like Heaven -
"awake awake awake!"

posted by Mark Butterworth | 4:12 PM |

Thought for a Sunny Day

It is better for men to fail to live up to ideals and know it, than for men to deny ideals and consider themselves estimable or worthy people.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 4:07 PM |

Recently Discovered Parables of Jesus!

There are three recently discovered new parables of Jesus along with a number of Kingdom of God similes. I will be publishing them in sequence day to day until they are complete.

The Parable of the Wise King

There was once a king of a great nation, who, because of the
power, wealth, and luxury of his regency, feared finding honest stewards
and successors to his throne. Having many wives, every time a child was
born to him, he would have that baby raised by foster parents, rich or poor,
with neither they nor the child knowing who the true father was.

At a certain age, the king would meet and speak to his children who had grown up in diverse circumstances.

Most of his children were fairly honest, hard-working, ordinary
people content with their place in life and without greater ambition. These he rewarded with small gifts to help them in their lives and work. They went on their way without knowing who their true father was.

Some of his children were dishonest, wicked, and hard-hearted. These he rebuked and told to reform their lives if they wished any benefit from him. Most of these rejected his advice and went on their way ignorant of who their true father was.

A few of his children had troubled themselves to search for truth, wisdom, peace, and understanding in their lives. These he brought into his palace for further instruction. He made them princes and princesses of the realm with great duties and greater rewards, for they served exactly as the king intended they should.

Although the king had fathered many children, only a few could claim him as their father.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 4:04 PM |

Get off the Pot

I'm being forced to agree with Louder Fenn among others who is getting fed up with the Administration's lame responses to the situation in Israel.

Sharon should arrest Arafat and put him on trial as a war criminal. We should, too. Has anyone forgotten that Arafat was recorded on the phone! giving the order to kill an American diplomat who was kidnapped in the Sudan. Well, the State Dept. has forgotten all about it.

I realize Bush wants to preserve some semblance of co-operation when we invade Iraq, but Give It Up! The prior scenario is blowing up and we've got to change our thinking (not our strategy). We don't need anybody else's approval or help.

I believe Bush is losing the initiative on the War on Terror. And that the State Dept. is doing it for him.

If we have to turn the world upside down to accomplish our goals - then do it! If everybody wants to hate us, Fine! They can't do without us, and they know it. The time to act powerfully for life and freedom is when you have the Power.


An Opinion Scoop! (That's a new term I just invented since it applies to the Blogosphere quite well.)

I don't know if anyone has yet mentioned this since things have cooled down so much with our initial success in Afghanistan, but the the new facts are that we pretty much believe that the rest of al Qaeda are in Pakistan with the Pashtuns in the "lawless" tribal areas. Now Bush and Co. have been saying that we don't need to get Omar and OBL to feel "closure" (after all, they say, we never got Hitler); but if he's alive - we ought to be going after him full bore, shouldn't we?

Now, I've heard that we have asserted a right to go into Pakistan in "hot pursuit", so let's get on with it. OBL killed over 3,000 Americans and I think pursuing him where he and his buddies live is worthwhile. Isn't that what Bush promised us he would do? That he can run but he can't hide? That we'd smoke him out? Run him to ground?

I swear Bush is blowing it big time if he doesn't start to get this nation and armed forces in real gear and up to cruising speed.

I'm not for acting precipitously and getting good people killed through impatience, but the Pentagon has had over six months to start moving. If anyone remembers WW II, we made pretty good progress in six months after Pearl Harbor in getting this country into position to counter-attack.

So the scoop is this - OBL is in Pakistan and we're not doing a darn thing about it as far as I can tell.

Granted, we know little about plans and strategies, but why aren't we being prepped for it. Bush said a country harboring terrorists was a target for our wrath. Why aren't we going into the very areas where the Paki's fear to tread? Hell, we'd be doing them a favor. In any event, if we're at war, then let's fight the war and stop dithering.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 3:29 PM |

Pleasure in Heaven is Seeing Others in Hell

St. Thomas Aquinas once said something about one of the great joys of heaven was in seeing others in hell.

Needless to say, this causes a bit of consternation to moderns. "What! What kind of schadenfrude, is that!? Yesh, nice Jesus freaks you are. Laughing and yucking it up while you see your moms and dads, brothers and sons twisting in the fire where the worm does not die. Makes me want to join the party, indeed!"

Aquinas was thinking about the pure joy that comes when we see absolute justice finally applied. (Somehow nobody scorns the Buddhists for karma where you get to enjoy other people's suffering now for their past lives sins.)

Is there no one who doesn't enjoy poetic justice in fiction (which is why we love happy endings for the long suffering and just deserts for villains)? Nor who doesn't applaud when a sneaky murderer is found guilty or generally appalled when O.J. types go free?

But that's what Hell is. A place where the guilty enjoy the choices they have freely made. And not where the saints stand at the railings and point - "See! didn't I tell you so, Aunt Sue?! Aren't you sorry now?! Ha Ha ha!"

Of course, I have a fervent wish that no one would end up in Hell and I can think of ways for God to act so that would not happen, but I have to believe in a Hell if I believe in human freedom. And I must say, when I consider the kind of hard heartedness and pure egotism in such people as the lesbians mentioned below - should they die unrepentant tomorrow - I want them to experience justice, true justice.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 2:20 PM |

Hell hath No Fury as a Lesbian Scorned?

I try not to link to every new outrage of human selfishishness and sickness but Rod Dreher at the Corner has this link to a story of a pair of deaf lesbians who have successfully created one deaf child and are hoping their latest is also. The sperm was sought for from someone with a history of family deafness.

The article goes into the monstrous kind of selfishness and egotism that deliberately seeks to create a disabled human being.

Truth is way past being stranger than fiction. It makes one vomit.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 2:02 PM |

Cruelty to the Left of them, Cruelty to the Right

I'm a bit tired of the whole corrupt Catholic priests issue - not because its boring or unimportant, but the sameness of one case after another simply exhausts one's rage or tears.

So I wasn't going to comment on this latest case in L.A.. But then I was driving and listening to the news on the radio and the attitude and viciousness of one of the peripheral characters in the story simply cried out for response.

The L.A. Times story is here.

What bothered me most is the priest whom the woman, who claims she was molested as a young teenager by another priest, says did nothing to help her when she spoke to him at the time and in fact molested her also.

Now, we have a strong notion that this woman is correct in her charge of repeated abuse by her parish priest, because it turns out that he did the same to other girls and women and now is or being defrocked. So her's is not a he said/she said situation.

The second priest claims he has never done any such thing as molest a girl although he can't recall if he ever met with her or not. His response to her charge? He wants to sue for defamation.

As I said, I was going to let it pass until I heard him on the radio. His voice was vicious and without a shred of pity or sympathy for the victim. He claimed he would have done something about it if she had ever told him her story. But does he have any record of exposing bad priests to the Diocese or the police? He doesn't say, and given the credibility of the priests now, his assertion of moral integrity rings false.

The second point is his nastiness. I can well understand the shock and outrage of any man who knows he has been unjustly accused of a terrible crime. But how does a decent Christian respond once he's calmed down? Like Cardinal Bernadin. He turns the other cheek. He accepts that God has "blessed" him with unjust persecution in his righteousness.

A good man who knows that Truth is with him even if the world doesn't know it, is a man at peace; a man who is kind to his adversaries, and sympathetic to their suffering. He says, "I didn't do what I've been charged with, but I can well understand that it was long ago, the woman may be somewhat confused about incidental events such as her brief meetings with others; and that she may be unintentionally fabricating additional causes for suffering in her frustration, grief, and misery with the Church. I am deeply sorry for her, but I deny what she has said of me. I am deeply shamed that what she has said of the other priest is undoubtedly true. If there is anything I can do to convince her that she is mistaken about me, I will do it. If I cannot convince her, let me say that if she came to me and I failed to act in any way that did not help her - I am utterly sorry and deeply contrite of heart."

That what decent men do. They don't snarl and threaten lawsuits. They mitigate damage to others, not to themselves.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 1:48 PM |

Monday, April 01, 2002  

No thanks to Rome, eh?

Think about the political history of the Church for a moment. The Catholic and Orthodox, that is. It is miserable. Only Protestantism has benefitted Man politically. Look at Hispanic colonies. Spain, Portugal, Italy, France; then Greece, Russia et al.

The U.S. and the world has much more reason to thank Luther than any pope or metropolitan or patriarch.

Of course, we may simply end up thanking England (not Great Britain, but the English) for its cultural and political progression.

I have occasionally wondered, though if the structure of the RC and Ortho churches helped to create a kind of futility and fatalism in the populations whose governments were modeled on an unresponsive, unaccountable, and indifferent Church. Tyranny, conspiracy, and secrecy are the European way of government. Intellectual elites that act by fiat and secret courts.

A brief look at the history of English colonies and Spanish ones is sobering. The kind of endemic corruption in places like Mexico and the people's lack of respect for law (since the Law does not respect them) is a vicious cycle. Mexicans love their culture, but hate their country. Which is why so many want to live here and yet remain Mexican in all other ways.

The question, though, is whether they will assimilate or simply import the very thing they are fleeing - lawlessness, corruption, violence, and despair.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 11:27 PM |

We are the World. Save the Children. Free Willie.

The Christian is in no way called upon to change the world. (Repeat after me - I am not the Savior. I am not ....) He is called upon to alter himself. If he succeeds in reforming himself in becoming a complete, and whole being in God, he has quite literally changed the world, indeed. (And that is no small accomplishment.)

Remember the Temptations of Jesus in the Wilderness? Jesus was shown the world he could own and remake however he pleased - but it was a demonic offer and appeals only to fools.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 11:06 PM |

Why do they stay?

There is so much that is extraordinarily beautiful in RC Christianity that it is small wonder that its members are loyal; but it's a bit like having the Louvre run by fascists. You want to see the Mona Lisa and other treasures frequently but you have to weather nasty curators, docents, and guards.

(And it's a bit like congressmen. Everybody says they hate politicians but they like the guy from their district. He's okay.)

posted by Mark Butterworth | 11:00 PM |

Home Alone - the Galaxy

For a long time I've been telling SETI types that if there were other people (or sentient beings) in the universe, we would have already encountered them (unless we are absolutely the very first). The science types would all scoff at me.

Well, First Things has a great article on that and illustrates that the proof I used to state was eponymously called , Fermi's Paradox: "Fermi’s Paradox—Back in Style. Fermi’s Paradox, a SETI-challenge that was tried and found wanting in the 1950s, has been given a retrial. This time, expert witnesses on propulsion technologies have been called in, claiming that if life sprung up in our galaxy many millions of years ago, then our galaxy should have been entirely colonized by now.

It all started over a Los Alamos lab lunch in the summer of 1950, when renowned Italian physicist Enrico Fermi had one of those napkin-scribbling epiphanies. His conclusion stemmed from the indisputable premise that there are billions of stars in our galaxy that are older than our sun, and that life routinely develops under favorable conditions.

Exhausted planet resources and dying stars would provide good motives for exploration and homesteading. Some cultures, like our own, would find other motives for colonizing, and it would only take one enterprising population to begin exponential expansion. Fermi showed that, even assuming modest speeds, every habitable star system in the galaxy should have been colonized within mere millions, not billions, of years. Complete colonization could take place in the relative twinkling of a cosmic eye, many times over, in a ten-billion-year-old galaxy like the Milky Way. "So," asked Fermi, "where are they?"

Also: " Figuring on a cruising speed of 10 percent that of light and periods of four hundred years’ settling time between migrations, astronomers say it would take just five million years for one colonizing group to reach every star system across the Milky Way’s 100,000 light-years.

In the 1970s, four astrophysicists—Michael Hart, David Viewing, Frank Tipler, and Ronald Bracewell—independently published studies concluding that the Fermi Paradox was difficult to escape. Today, as NASA lays the groundwork for new propulsion strategies, the thought that older cultures should have developed these long ago lends added weight to Fermi’s argument. "The implication is clear," wrote British astronomer Ian Crawford last year: "The first technological civilization with the ability and the inclination to colonize the galaxy could have done so before any competitors even had a chance to evolve."

There's lots more in the essay.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 9:14 PM |

On God

Mark Goldblatt at NRO has this article here.

"The fact that 86 percent of Americans believe in God is well known. Less well known is that, according to a 2001 Gallup poll, 46 percent of Americans with postgraduate degrees think the Bible "answers all or most of the basic questions of life." It's a startling figure if you've attended graduate school in the last quarter century — for nowhere is belief in divine inspiration, or in divinity itself, more often pooh-poohed than in masters and doctoral classrooms. This, despite the fact that the smartest people in history have believed in a Higher Power. Socrates. Plato. Aristotle. Augustine. Maimonides. Aquinas. Da Vinci. Copernicus. Newton. Jefferson. Einstein. What unites them is not faith in the Judeo-Christian God, or even in a personal god, but rather in a divine presence whose existence somehow sustains the natural world. "

And briefly explains a paradox on theodicy concluding:

"What happens to one person is inherently unpredictable. But what happens in the aggregate is absolutely determined. That is, you and I are free to create our own fates. But the course of history, the outcomes of multitudes of fates, is subject to God's guiding hand. In this view, good triumphs over evil in the long run for the same reason that order emerges from the seeming chaos of electrons or that coin tosses eventually come out even. All are manifestations of God's ongoing creation of the world."

posted by Mark Butterworth | 8:42 PM |

Part Two on A Story

A woman decided to do as her pastor suggested and do some volunteer work at the local hospital. She was rather shy and self-effacing. Her work there was to visit patients, fluff up their pillows, run small errands for them - things like that, but she didn't talk much; simply smiled and bustled quietly about.

One day, a man who was recovering from a heart attack told her how much he appreciated all she was doing and how good she was for doing it.

She was caught off-guard and blurted out, "I'm doing it for Jesus."

He replied sadly, "Oh, I was hoping you were doing it for me."

That's how I feel in many cases with other people who have ulterior motives, but don't make them apparent. A reporter wanting to know what happened or what I think where I gradually realize - this person couldn't care less about this human being in front of him. All he wants is his "story". Or going on a radio show to talk about my book and realizing that they don't really want me on the show - they want someone who's personable, interesting, and entertaining - a show man - a phony. I might be good to know and fun to be with, but that's not the point. That natural person hasn't really got a chance.

Ben Kepple wrote about how reporters respond to criticism: "The one maxim reporters have, when hearing someone is upset with their coverage or otherwise annoyed with them, is: They Knew What They Were Getting Into. And it's true. What's that? You didn't mean what you said? Well, you should have thought of that earlier, no? What? You had no idea you were going to look so bad? "

Yeah, okay there's a devil's bargain for public figures who play for attention and media which gives it. But most people I know who encounter the press encounter someone with an ulterior motive. Most folks think that the person they're relating their tragedy to really feels for them and isn't simply waiting for that good quote to pour out of them. Most people don't think they're a "story". But a whole life and a bigger, rounder complex of being than what gets portrayed.

One reporter who was doing an "undercover" story at an Unemployment Program for professionals I was going through, led me to believe he was in the program because he was out of work; and so I talked to him, offered what advice, insights, and ruminations I could to be helpful to another guy in the same boat as me.

Then I read the story on the front page of a local Lefty Free Weekly. There I was being quoted in all my glory. It was nothing that made me look bad, but it was life, honest life that was stolen from me. I had treated this man with respect, seriousness, and helpfulness. He had been playing Nelly Bly. I felt betrayed.

This is not the only occasion I have seen such an attitude at work in newsmen. Not lying in this same way, but the befriending of people all for a few good quotes and a story with an interesting plot.

When I went to the radio show (a little Catholic station), I didn't expect much but was surprised at how cold-blooded it all seemed (and is). I hadn't quite anticipated that.

Okay, I'm naive, but it's a hard won naivete. It's the work of many years to rid myself of suspicion, doubt, fear, and the prowl for advantage when encountering and interacting with others. So forgive me or sue me or whatever if I approach life and others open handed, plain and simple in manner, and focused on the moment. I will take that sense of prayer and simpleness over Ben's dog eat dog media scramble game of whore and john dancing in the dark.

I don't like people whose only use for other people they encounter is to use them; then rationalizing it by insisting those folks wanted to be used, knew they were being used, so where's the harm? I expect that from the world. I grieve deeply when I hear it from Christians.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 3:31 AM |

Sunday, March 31, 2002  

Uh oh! I got into trouble.

The Daily Rant has located St. Mark of Sacramento (Actually I prefer St. John Mark the First, Pope of his own bad self). Nor would I think anyone who saw me in action would consider me very devout. (No more daily Mass for me.)

Ben Kepple takes issue with my essay on reporters and news gathering here. My essay is here.

I think Ben represented my viewpoint with long quotes quite fairly. I am little surprised how gored his ox was, but if he believes his profession is noble than he ought to defend it tooth and nail. I do believe that Benjamin is earnest in his desire to be accurate and fair as a reporter, but I am rather more convinced that I would not wish to be reported on in some other context of civic, personal, criminal conflict by him (or anyone). I wouldn't mind having a drink with him, though.

I stand by what I wrote, and I think a great many people who aren't reporters will agree with me about the degree of vampirism in the profession. Ben's claim to disinterestedness rings a little hollow when, as he mentions, the marketplace demands a certain level of controversy. On the one hand, he says he doesn't care about his interest in sales, slant or ratings.

He says: "What self-interest? Do you honestly think a reporter, who either a) makes next to nothing, and/or b) makes far less than his superiors in the organization, gives a damn whether his story will sell papers? No. That's not his job. His job is to report the news. When he is done, he can go to the bar and drink."

But admits: "Newsmen respond to one thing: the Market. If readers stop buying the paper because they are disgusted with the coverage ... the coverage will change. This is because reporters are subservient to their editors, who are subservient to the Publisher, who is in charge of making sure the whole bloody enterprise stays afloat somehow."

Whether a reporter makes a little or a lot of money is hardly relevant. Certainly the reader could care less, but the Publisher cares a lot, and if he can prey on the worst in people and make more money, I think he might just instruct his employees to be provocative.

Part of Ben's Rant is to blame humans (as I do, also) for their foolishness: "Again, don't blame us for people's failings. If people are overly drawn to the media because of their own greed or some other failing ... that should be their concern, not ours."

People are weak and childish. Ben knows this and says nothing is wrong if he and the Media use it to their advantage to sell a product and make a living. He says people have a right to defend themselves in the media. But they have no such right. They only have rights to defend themselves in court. The media is not a fair or neutral place for self-defense. Ask anybody who's ever felt his words were taken out of context, truncated; or recorded in a moment of great stress or anguish when they weren't thinking clearly; or were simply unprepared and caught completely off-guard.

Nor is it simply a matter of ethics as Ben implies (and that his ethics are high), but rather something of the nature of the beast. There is a difference in performing work in a manner that will be edifying to others or that will be merely distracting, meretricious, or exploitive of the worst in them. It's like the Christian girl who agrees to a nude scene in a movie because "it was authentic to the character" as if to say that modesty is relative, expedient, and conditional. Yes, if you're drowning, for heaven's sake shuck the burqa (although that doesn't fly in Saudi Arabia - no escaping the flames if you're not properly dressed and escorted).

Almost lastly, do we need the Media as Ben says to examine and investigate things which are tedious or difficult for the citizen? Yes. Individuals may act as the citizens they are and question public employees and officials to their heart's content and offer the fruit of their labor for a price to others. More than that is debatable - the morality of gossip, instigation, provocation, challenging then enter the picture among other things.

Ben concludes with "one (last) outraged comment: Would St Mark of Sacramento kindly come down from his raised platform and realize that in order to change this Godless, secular world, one must engage it instead of withdraw from it? "

Well, as some may have noted thus far, I'm not real big on changing the world (anymore). I find it hard enough to change myself or maintain an even keel. But I am all for engaging others person to person. (You'll also find that hermits can be happy people with happy thoughts, and happy Easter..)

posted by Mark Butterworth | 11:24 PM |


Had a problem with my e-mail link. If anyone tried to use it and didn't get through, try it now. Just in case that won't work, I've printed my address to be used.

I've noticed that a lot of bloggers seem to have been computer programmers and people. For me, though, I haven't a clue to HTML. I thought Blogger would set up everything I needed with the click of a mouse or something. Whatever improvements I've been able to make have been through the good offices of Bryan Preston at JunkYardBlog. Many thanks, Bry.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 9:43 PM |

News Flash! Pope Prays for Peace in Mideast

I realize that it is pro forma for religious leaders like the Pope to pray for peace on such occasions as Easter or Christmas, but it really makes no Christian sense (other than wishing others well). Violence and wars are caused by sin; thus, one should pray that people renounce sin and evil. We pray that Truth (not peace) is sought for and found. (News Flash! It ain't gonna happen to the world anytime soon.)

But wait! you say? "Blessed are the peacemakers..."

Well, if you think asking the violent to be quiescent makes you a peacemaker, by all means, go for it. If the mission of the Church is to make salvation available to all, then shouldn't we be sending missionaries instead of pious wishes?


What is a peacemaker, though? Isn't the greatest peacemaker of all the one who triumphs over the darkness, rage, and violence inhabiting himself? Or the man who sets aside his pride to recognize his cruelty or indifference to another? Or is a peacemaker our usual image of a diplomat between warring or conflicting parties? Isn't that actually someone who arranges compromise, though? You give a little and he gives a little, and we'll all go about our usual business. Is that really peacemaking in any spiritual sense? In a practical sense, yes; but I never noticed that Jesus was a very pragmatic fellow.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 9:36 PM |

Once more in the same vein and then that will be it.

19 The Parable of the Cruel Father

A man had four sons. Everyday
he went to the first son, struck him hard
and said, "try harder to do better." When
his first son grew large enough, he struck back
and then fled in fear and rage. Thereafter,
each time he saw his father, he wished
to kill him. He lived an angry life
and died in his sins.

With the second son,
everyday the father struck him but less hard
and said, "try harder to do better." Soon,
when the boy was big enough, he ran away.
He lived sensuously and died in his sins.

With his third son, he struck him too,
each day, and said the same, but did not strike
as hard as the two sons before him. When this son
grew up, he worked for his father and did
everything he was told but lived a life
of tears and shame and died in his sins
never knowing saving grace. He'd been a slave.

With the fourth son, the man merely tapped
his cheek each day and gently said,
"try harder to do better." This son prospered
in believing his father loved him best
of all. He thought himself blessed because
he was not beaten like his brothers. Instead,
he was only lightly cursed by his father
and he took such escape from worse as a joy.
This son proclaimed his father's goodness far
and wide, and many agreed the father was
gentle to the fourth son: a good father.

The fourth son grew old boasting how loved
he'd been and how fortunate a son was he,
but he too, died in all of his sins
because he never knew he was a fool.

Let the people understand:
Wisdom is vindicated by her children.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 3:24 PM |

18 The Parable of the False Christian

To the murderers of spirit and hope,
hear this: you shall feast on your sins and die.
You shall suffer the violence of evil,
and slaughter yourselves in your ugliness.

There was a man, a priest, a pretender
of faith who hated the people he served.
His message was always the same: "Do better.
Try harder."

Everyday, every week
Mister Do Better Try Harder informed
the people they were always useless to God.
When Do Better Try Harder saw a family,
young people with children to raise, he said:
be poorer for God's sake."

He never saw good
in people's lives - only weakness and fear.
He could not hate openly, so he hated
secretly. He had a gentle manner,
a charming condescension which spoke
sincerely, tenderly "try harder to
do better." Everyday, every week.

And people loved him for his easy way
of saying, "Do better. Try harder."

They thought
him kind and patient with them: Fatherly.
They thought that God was like that, too; as One
dissatisfied in everything with them.

Do Better Try Harder never sang
for joy, wept in sorrow, made a friend,
or saved a soul, but polished well
his way of saying, "do better, try harder."
Almost everybody said: "he's so sincere",
and "isn't he nice", "a true man of God".

Yet everyday he said he hated them
and found them useless, vain, and stupid
because they always failed to "do better
or try harder." They never pleased him.

One day Do Better Try Harder will die
and go to God and learn about his wasted years
when he could have sung about the peace
in God's love for all his children; when
he could have shone with the light of salvation;
when he could have wept for sin and laughed for joy.

Do Better Try Harder will die one day,
but won't be happy to face death or God,
the One he never knew. He will say, though,
" I did my best to be encouraging."

posted by Mark Butterworth | 3:20 PM |

Hmm - Try Harder to Do Better

One of my pet peeves toward priests and preachers is that every homily or sermon becomes the samo samo exhortation in one form or another to try harder to do better.

How would you like to have been raised by parents who never thought anything you did was ever adequate but always insisted you could "try harder to do better"? How would you like to raise children like that. If you do, don't be surprised if they either kill themselves or you. Jesus didn't always harp on perfectionism either.

But Fr. Shawn O'Neal at Onealism says in his Easter homily - "We are called to make this world new in the image of his glory. It sounds difficult, but remember that what many people thought to be impossible is the very thing that we celebrate today. The renewal of the world and its people is truly possible.

So do not let your joy be a private joy today. Share your joy. The more that we share our joy, the more that the world will be made new in the image of the risen Jesus. This is a tremendous task, but it is the task that God wants all of us to perform. It is time for us to do more than celebrate the resurrection; it is now time, through the power of the resurrected Jesus, to take this world back from the clutches of evil and fear"

This is impossibly silly. Jesus in fact tells us that this world is hopeless and the best we can do is to get ourselves rescued from it. If we have any goodness in us, we will of course treat others well and do our work the best we can, but we are not called to do anything to save the world from its evil and fear. We might help another soul from time to time, but that's about it.

But a crusade? Come on, padre, where'd you get this from? What are they smokin' in the seminary you came out of? Remember John? The world chooses darkness because people hate the light? It's sad but true.

Also, prove to me that you can change into the image of the resurrected Jesus before you start trying to change the world. Show me why other people are the problem while you aren't. How do I even know what the image of the resurrected Jesus is? It sounds like you have an idea, though. The problem is that images are generally false when we try to shove God into a picture.

Haven't you heard, Shawn, that there shall be no new earth or new heaven until this old earth passes away and all its evil and fallen condition with it? There's no saving the world - only individuals - and if you look at the record of our faith, we fail a lot.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 1:07 AM |

Thought from a Sunny Day (from my book Contentions)

107 At the heart of every story is the quest of the Hero. This quest provides narrative drive by formulating a conflict engaging the interest of an audience.

Why is the Hero questing? To fulfill his destiny (a demand of some kind) which is often disguised as a necessity such as food, a mate, or recognition to be acquired or dragon-death-evil to overcome; or for more psychologically selfish reasons - power, pleasure, fame, wealth as substitutes for recognition and love.

But the destiny the Hero seeks to fulfill ultimately means oneness with God. Even Jesus has to return to the Father through death to fulfill his human destiny and Godhood. Thus every Hero seeks God/Love/Immortality and every story is an extended metaphor of that ultimate desire.

Every comedy, tragedy, satire, or romance is necessarily a unity of action for a Hero to find satisfaction of being. (Tragedy results in sobriety, restored peace, or rescue for the community. Oedipus Rex, for example, restores Thebes to peace with the gods; while Jesus' death restores or reconciles mankind to God along with establishing peace through our rescue from the nihilism of death.)

Any antagonistic character is a charicature; that is, less than complete human figure because he (or she) represents one aspect of fallen being more than another which must be overcome. Positive characters who are fostering agents act as friends, oracles, guides, or sages thus representing divine grace and help (fortune, answered prayers). Horatio in Hamlet, for instance - a detached, non-judging, supportive companion. In essence, a foil for Hamlet's Heroic conscience and consciousness.

The quest of the Hero ultimately ends in Heaven.
Serious Christians are those who have consciously embraced the quest and announced that they are Heroes and warriors who intend to storm the kingdom of heaven by violence (to themselves). Having become conscious of their destiny and quest, stories which disguise such a fact of reality become essentially meaningless to them. What they are interested in is information and grace that helps them achieve purity and simplicity in pursuit of their ultimate goal of perfection of spirit. Fiction cannot help them unless it is didactic or edifying to that end.

Eventually, we cross over from a heroic to a post-heroic manner of being as we are purged and sanctified on our own cross; then, even the narrative of the Gospels loses resonance and emotional effect when identification with the Hero (Jesus or lesser heroes like Peter, Paul, et al.) begins to wane as the work of grace fulfills our return to God and brings about not only our rebirth, but our death and resurrection into whole (though still mortal and afflicted) people.

Jesus' story becomes less of a tragedy and more a shared and ordinary experience of our own unhistrionic (I hope) human life.The work of grace and prayer draws us into transcendent and detached contemplation. (Not unemotional neutrality which is an impossibility, but we become mature and emotionally balanced; which is to say, saddened or elated by the import of various events in a sensible degree.)

Savage, cruel, or rude treatment of anyone (or animal) is a source of sadness, anger, or sorrow for a Christian. We are not indifferent. Contemplation of Jesus' physical and emotional suffering can still cause anguish, but meditation on him becomes less frequent since the world provides us with many fresh examples to contemplate sympathetically and move us to intercessory prayers or helpful action.

A perfect Christian is not so serene that he is free from all anguish at his own condition (when severely afflicted) or that of others.

What I mean to say is that a post-Heroic state of being is a state that Jesus is now alive in, and a state that a Christian achieves spiritually even now when Self is lost in God so that neither an objective God or subjective Self remain. In this condition, Jesus does not appear to us bearing his wounds and calling for our abject apologies, remorse, or prostrations. His anguish is transcended and so, too, does our own become like that. We no longer project our 'selves', our emotions, or our unconscious on God. We no longer possess an unconscious (as far as I can tell!) such as we had before.

As wretched as we know the human condition to be, we no longer know ourselves as unworthy of being loved by the absolute and pure being that we've discovered in God; nor fear the loss of such heavenly love since we know ourselves to have been eternally bound to this Love with unbreakable wedding bands.

None of this changes the fact that we remain animals who are social, matrimonial, and fertile (artistically; or physically - if need be, apart from age). (Sometimes I marvel to watch someone dancing gracefully and think - what an odd thing for an animal to do; how truly strange. Or watch music made and consider the amount of work it takes to be a good musician and wonder that an animal should do so. Even though I hardly consider my own motions or musical skills when I play.)

Even so, I realize that we are animals made for awareness of beauty in others and all things. The simple act of watching a child skipping along a sidewalk can fill me with an ocean of delight. The child-ness of purer human life, the fact that we resemble other animals simply as creatures born to mate, rear young, with nothing else of greater importance (as post-heroic beings) is a cause for rejoicing and some wonder at the nature of what ought to be obvious. It is obvious, but not delightful and soul satisfying to the world, perhaps (because others quest without a True object as their goal, while others have yet to fulfill the true quest they have found, and thus cannot take stock of reality and the obvious child-ness of human being).

We are not created as such be 'gods' but animals who mate and rear young. That we can do so with more ability to engage in diverse pastimes (music, art, architecture, poetry, technology) different from other animals is no credit to ourselves but simply a function of our species as God has made us.

When I look upon mankind in the world now, I don't see us as alienated from nature by reason of our consciousness. No, I see that we will correspond exactly as intended someday (in Heaven), and not know any separateness from Nature even though we are like 'gods' then, too.

When I see an animal care for its offspring, I think - I am like that, too. When I watch an animal acquire food - I am like that, too. Or an animal take a mate - so too am I like that, and always will be, I think.

I look at a newborn child as it quietly contemplates (makes sense of) what it sees. That is how I often look at the world. - Hmm, what is this thing of colors I see? Why are people moving around like that? Their motions alone are interesting. Who is holding me? Food tastes good. I like being warm. I like a gentle breeze. I like bright colors. I like light. I like being held. I like holding. I like the way some things move and reflect colors and light. I like some sounds I hear very much. Beauty is present to me. Love is present to me. Yet, I do not sense God in or out of me.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 12:39 AM |

Easter is Eternal Spring and Delight

Tonight was a night that makes me realize how glad I am to be a Catholic and how wonderful it is to have a true faith in common with others. When I watch the people awaiting and getting baptized I am overcome with emotion having been through the same with my wife and daughter who was eight at the time.

There is immense power in the voluntary proclamation of faith before a public audience which welcomes you into a community of truth, prayer, and love. These are indelible moments: marriage, the birth of a child, the death of a loved one, a long wished for goodness fulfilled - conversion, baptism. These are the graces that exalt and make the cup overflow; which tell us that heaven is more real than anger, alienation, fear, despair, grief, and hatred.

Sacraments can be great occasions of grace because we make a moment something bigger than symbolism or ritual - but profoundly real and satisfying - affirmative in a way that life is so rarely. The power is not in any form of egotism but the reverse - submission to He who is greater in a way that exalts and liberates rather than that which enslaves or terrorizes (where submission of any other kind eventually leads to despair).

It is nights like tonight which make me want the Church to go on and on despite all the predators and wolves who feast on the innocence of others; or all the egotists and self-important so and so's.

Tonight four people stood up and renounced evil and all its works and pledged to enter into a new and positive life, like children being adopted by a new family.

I feel sorry for all the people sitting at home thinking how stupid and superstitious Christians are, how mindless and irrational we are to think that God actually hears us and responds. I think of how empty and meaningless life is when it is without real hope of true being and lasting love and happiness. And a life without serious extra-personal ritual and ceremony, proclamation and prayer is vacuous. If the only time someone feels connected to a world of others is at a ball game when the Nat. Anthem is sung, how pathetic is that?

Someone once said, "If you would seek improvement, you must be willing to risk appearing like a fool or an idiot to your neighbors." Christians accept the most foolish of propositions -a dead man got up and said hello - but they receive the most extraordinary justification and glory for such folly. Tonight was such an occasion of grace and righteousness vindicated.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 12:23 AM |