Friday, November 16, 2007

A response to The Dead End of Jewish Culture

As this little snippet shows, Christianity is not the only place when men of the religion are looking out their doors wondering where the congregation went.

American Jews have been occupied for four decades in a desperate attempt to stay the tide of assimilation and intermarriage (not to even speak of their more hideous confrere: conversion). I remember as a teenager in the early 1960s sitting through sermons where our rabbi pontificated on the various solutions to The Problem. Yet exactly what is the Jewish leadership trying to perpetuate? Jewish genes? Jewish culture? A fondness for kreplach and klezmer and Isaac Bashevis Singer?

If so, no wonder the Catholics are winning. They don't strive to inculcate in their children a love for Catholic culture. They don't try to whip up enthusiasm for the celebration of St. Patrick's Day nor spend millions to make sure that every Catholic child decorates an Easter egg. They are propagating a religion, complete with God and soul and afterlife. We are pushing a culture, complete with Sholem Aleichem and dreidels and lithographs of the Western Wall. But for a culture, no matter how engaging, no one is ready to sacrifice one's life -- nor the love of one's life. Against Christianity we have pitted not Judaism, but Judaica.

Fear not that the answer lies beyond your reach but fear that human nature makes it very unlikely you will want to go there.

The reason is the same as mine for leaving Catholic Christianity for Conservative Judaism: fear replacing love, even the most cherished rituals of the faith being reduced to cultural affectations without meaning to the soul of the congregant, and a stunning lack of personality and chutzpah from the man at the podium.

I spoke no lie before... the answer is not going to be what you wanted to hear.

First, there is structural damage in the form of fear replacing love. This is perhaps easier to see in Christianity's history than in Judaism's but make no mistake there is far less relating of reasons to see G-d's love in the rituals as opposed to grave warnings of transgressing. No Jew has ever been struck down for having a pork chop. So the warnings of divine retribution over breaking His rules are made to look silly and hollow. The average Jew isn't stupid enough to fail to notice any more than the average Christian. Read the frum orthodox bloggers and see how many are buck and chafing at the yoke now. Check out Rabbi Lazar Brody's upset candor in this article for an example of the mistakes of some rabbis in being strict for the sake of G-d to the point they trample on Him.

Second, when there is not only no love but not even fear the rituals become like a kid who eats his sandwiches just so, someone who makes sure never to walk on the cracks on the sidewalk, etc. No better than superstition and you might remember Maimonides warning us on that. Worse yet, they go from that to subconscious "we've always done that" acts. Judaism is being reduced to Judaica.

Third, sorry to say rabbonim but you're looking pretty darn shabby. You need to work on the delivery. You and the Catholic priests, the Protestant priests, etc. For many congregants, your presentation isn't a lot different than Eddie Izzard's take on the Church of England and Christianity in general.

Why have so many Catholics gone over to Evangelical Born-Again Christianity? Pumping grace. Hands in the air, singing to the Lord, passion. Catholicism lacked this passion for them. So did the old-guard Protestant denominations. It is NOT for no reason that there are more and more Evangelical and Pentacostal Hispanic churches ever day. Imagine if every third minyan broke off and became not only their own synagogue, but their own movement.

At this point the core of Christianity is a giant hunk of Alka-Seltzer, the edges frittering and devolving away into ephemeral memory. THAT is what is happening to Judaism. The major difference being that Jesus' example of rebellion in the name of conscience is not so well understood on the conscience end as the rebellion end. Judaism doesn't have a strong example of devolving to further movements and new ones are momentous happenings. Should that change, expect a legion of Reb Carlebachs* of various qualities to pop up whose ability to read the Hebrew in the Tanach and Talmud is perfectly wonderful, but whose schooling and scholarship is lacking, so they make up for it in joyous noise that engages the congregation. Much light without heat, much noise without meaning. After a while, that too will go out as it is going out among so many devolved Christians.

Some might preach what is right for the right reasons, some might preach the wrong thing for the right reasons, others will preach the wrong thing for the wrong reason and human nature being what it is, this is the most seductive. Where do you think Jim and Tammy Baker came from? Christianity is already way ahead of you.

Rabbonim, before you reject what I say, will you not ask is there nothing in what you believe and hold dear that is not capable of being the fuel for faithful fire that engages the congregation just as much? Is the way of the mitnagdim so much more seductive to you than the first chasidim? Are you so worried and so full of doubt that you can no longer express love and hope and happiness to the Jew in the street as well as that?

I am confident you can.

While some may argue Judaism is a faith born of hardship and only hardship and strictness can make it stay relevant to us, I do not believe that at all.

I have faith in you rabbonim. If you only have faith in yourselves, you can throw aside your fears of facing your own shortcomings, facing the questions of Torah literal versus implied reading, the scary possibilities of titanic shifts in canon, as easily as you toss aside a napkin.

Remember, if you have to choose between love and fear, love is the better to choose. Never forget that when you teach why kashrut is what it is. Not that those who violate it are courting gehinom.

*I mean as in singing rabbis, not that Reb Carlebach was without substance. If you photocopied him and photocopied the photocopies each in turn nine hundred times, what would you have? Not Carlebach, that's for sure.

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Another DovBear post worth jousting joining in

But not in the Haloscan comments where some of my replies are like sticking War and Peace into a short pamphlet on the dangers of diabetes. So read Toby Surfaces and you'll see what I was piqued to write about. By the way, neither DovBear or any one specific person lit my fuse.

First, don't mistake G-d's grace in making you in the first place for not having a right to be here (in the world, in Israel, the US, wherever you posit the generic 'here' to be). You DO have a right to be here and even HE can't take it away without reversing Himself and that would undo Him. Therefore, by His own existence are you guaranteed the right. He made it so, therefore it is. Thank Him, but don't think Him so cheap that His gift can be undone any time He has a whim. It was way greater a gift than that and that greatness is why you owe him thanks.

Even if you die, you were and could say like Him "I am". Don't lose sight of the vast implication of that. He tied you inextricably to Himself sight unseen. This over all other things is why you owe Him your allegiance.

Second, don't mistake the mistakes of reasoning and emotion on the part of others as justification for engaging in them yourself. It is also Christian dogma stated or not that Jesus was not supposed to be accepted among his own people in his own time. It was the will of G-d that he not be. You can hardly blame ANYONE for G-d's predestination. Ours is not to reason why and all.

Naturally, humans want to blame someone for the death of someone who means something to them. You can't go and wag a finger at G-d and say, "you can't do that, you can't take away the messiah from me like that" and who else is there left to blame?

After the short brief stay in the Greek world, for better or worse, Christianity was taken up by the Romans. Do you really think they're going to blame their new all-powerful G-d for Jesus' death? We're down by two of three now. Who's left to blame? Really short game of musical chairs there. G-d's throne is immovable and the Romans never stood to the music.

Yet Jesus would not have blame tossed about so if you think there's neurosis in the world of Judaism, all of Christianity is neurotic on this one issue. Never mind all the ten thousand others.

While the teachings of the Catholic church wimbled and waffled on that subject of "Who Killed Jesus?" (everyone, in the study, with the lead pipe, I kick major backside at Clue, Monopoly too) in a way I thought highly morally repugnant, your average Christian on the street didn't hate Jews despite not really hanging out with them on a religious level. They weren't Jews, they were Jackie at the deli, and Bill at the office, and so on. They just didn't understand them and the church didn't help them understand being a Christian so how much more lost could they get?

(As an aside, why do you think that there are now so many "Jews for Jesus" people popping up now at the same time as so many Orthodox Jews blogging skeptical thoughts? Same reason: nagging conscience. Jesus' existence is the first assumption of Christianity and nothing else seems sensible so they're trying to do Jesus honor by doing what he seemed to be doing... getting people back to G-d. They just want to try to honor Jesus by adopting something of his cultural and religious ways without letting go of the Catholic central dogma of Jesus as G-d's superhighway toll collector and the nifty original sin spot remover as if Jesus was a moral Billy Mays.

Not possible perhaps between modern semi-post-diaspora Judaism and them but said form of Judaism did NOT exist then and if you think you hear Michael Buffer in your head yelling now before religious disputes imagine going back to the prime time of the Sanhedrin, imagine ground zero of Shammai and Hillel. "Let's get ready to rumbbbbbbbblllllle!"

But they at least are acting like G-d exists in a world that doesn't seem to. When they start blowing up stuff in the name of G-d, let me know.)

Does this mean I'm saying let antisemitism pass? HECK NO. I am quite likely the last on Earth to pass this.

Neither though should you paint with so broad a brush. Make no enemy of those better your friend and neighbor and of those better your enemy, reconsider. They're always better off on the friends list no matter what.

That is why your enemies should sadden and vex you, not that you are a victim, but that they are missing out on being your friend and G-d commanded you to be good to your neighbor and they are stymieing that putting you in a lose-lose situation where the best Pyhrric victory you can manage is to learn from their behavior to not become like them.

Returning hate and ignorance with love, albeit sad and heartbroken, is no different than your G-d does for you every time you imperfectly break His directions. Hard for you? Imagine how ticked off He must get some days.

Thankfulness is due to G-d for everything. Even the bad things. As has been taught repeatedly.

My task for day: read someone else's blog

After the mountain of output from my smithing at the keyboard I realized I'd had no time to read any of the other blogs I read.

Will be back later today maybe, definitely tomorrow G-d willing.

Also, I am extremely angry at the lack of common sense in people in general regarding the idea that if you are going somewhere, drive like it. I'd rant and that's not what I want to do today.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Further along in the road...

So I had stopped going to Sunday School, and then to church, and refused to go near a bible. I had one in my nightstand, but I never read it anymore. The world was painful to me pretty regularly, and I tried to track my doings, and couldn't find a formula of crime and punishment from above. It seemed pretty disproportionate and unfair.

Which is of course not to say that going without necessarily made my life all cream and sugar. It certainly didn't. Good... bad... needle stops on indifferent. Wasn't hurting, wasn't helping. If you want to be transcendental you can say what doesn't help you hurts you by wasting time when you need helping but no need to nitpick.

As the years ticked on my family fell apart. A new marriage for my mother went no better than the last but not for the same reasons unless you want to go to root causes in which case they were the same reasons: total self-absorption causing an inability to compromise, to see the other side, to see their own flaws, to admit those flaws to themselves and each other, inflexibility, unstoppable force meets immovable object. I went from two sets of grandparents to three and back to two. How do you give a kid your family and get everyone opening their hearts to each other and exchanging Christmas gifts and cards and kisses and hugs... and then take that away? I never got to see my step-father's parents again before they died. I wondered if they missed me the way I missed them.

My sister became an adolescent and as sisters often do, decided I was no longer her big brother. I was now Public Enemy Number One. If there was a crime in the world, of any kind, men were responsible, starting we me. For my part, it was like getting demoted by an employer you thought liked you, and a kick in the crotch for good measure. Being her big brother was one of my few secret joys. For a few hours a week total, I was someone important to someone, even if it wasn't any of my now three semi-parents. Now I was persona non grata.

You ever see that MASH episode where Houlihan cries to her nurses about how much it hurts to walk past their tent and hear them laughing and know she wasn't welcome? I was sooo there. Got the t-shirt and tote bag. Many times. Like whenever the same kids I played with would no longer play with me if my sister was playing with them first.

Somewhere around her middle high school years she left altogether taking up with some guy who sees in her I know not what. She's like a cat in a permanent state of wet fur, really. At least to me. I never did one thing to her. Not merely nothing to deserve this treatment, but nothing at all. It's strange how people sometimes can just arbitrarily choose to make enemies with people who want so badly to be their friend. You know, she was gone from my life for years before she was gone from the house. Just this sort of blonde blank spot that made me always afraid...

So she's off with him to this day, or back with him. That's another story altogether and later.

Time continued ticking by and with me much more alone than ever I imagined I could be. I used to think the way I could be at a total loss of anyone in the old neighborhood to play with some days was bad. Now living on the other side of town, just me and my mother and her parents was something totally other.

My road was looking pretty shabby. Muddy, potholed, and not going anywhere different or better than I'd been before in any real way. Even with my mother trying out Evangelical/Born Again Christianity.

For those of you born and raised Jews who know nothing about what is going on there other than the mass media, they have less to do with Jesus of Nazareth than the Catholic Church does. It's one part "the Catholics got it wrong", one part "don't worry be happy", one part "fire and brimstone" and one part "Who's this G-d person? The name is J-E-S-U-S!" and none of it tastes real good. Not to me, never did.

I remember how tired and sleepy I was going to a Grace and Vessels meeting. Grace DiBiccari would come out in her dress that was somewhere between a baby's baptismal font dress and a Dolly Parton Grand Ole Opry gown, all white, and with her big poofy black hair and the band would play and she'd sing and she'd preach and I wasn't following any of it.

Maybe I would have followed more if I'd not been subject to the Catholic Guilt Factory first, but then again, maybe not. Protestantism had its own Guilt Trips travel service no matter which denomination and from within, there's not a lot of what you see on the news about ordaining homosexuals or women, or talking about financial flow, there's lots of Jesus whatever. If you think that out of all the would-be messiahs that Jesus at least seemed to have a really good intent and start but Pauline Catholicism opened the flood gates of bastardization, then you'd have to think the Evangelicals were setting out to erase any message he had in a big flouncy fluffy content free pumping the sky atmosphere.

Really. As in Jesus (enter your preposition here). Like... Jesus saves.... and takes half damage. That's a Dungeons and Dragons joke by the way. You could also say Jesus saves... AND SCORES! That's the hockey joke. Not Jesus wanted to drag people back to focus on G-d, not that Jesus wanted to remind us of our creator... Not that Jesus stood for step back and a breath in a world that was on edge looking to blame anyone who got in the way...

No, Jesus has no message with these people. You're saved! From what? Well, the devil. Who is evidently the spitting image of the late Anton LaVey, but with hair.

That was about it. Accept Jesus as your personal saviour now, operators are standing by. Order your personal saviour now, get one more half-off. Also, this nifty travel size bible...

No, be good, honor your parents and you parents don't be cynically taking advantage of it. No lead by example be good and upright...

I slept at these things more than anything else, and through them later on television. Even Gene Scott made me switch the channel faster than the eye could follow.

Nevertheless I wanted to believe that G-d was there. He just didn't seem to like me. I was hurting so bad and everywhere I turned for solace more or less told me all my problems were my own and my fault. Sure, I'm Satan incarnate. That's why you lied to me about being sick that weekend you were supposed to visit me dad... Not that you were playing hooky and taking my step-brothers to the aquarium which I'd have given my left arm to go to see with you all... I was just not worthy, that's it...

I kept an old tin coffee can in my bedroom and in it the cloth-backed picture of Mary which hung round my neck at the time of confirmation, a real wood bead rosary, and a wooden cross that my mom gave me when I was all of six or seven. I'd look at them sometimes, and usually at night when I was all alone and tired after work, and sometimes, I'd cry. I'd feel like I was looking into some place I wasn't welcome, whose owner didn't want me. How could He possibly? Two parental break-ups, changing extended family line-ups, terrible school life, dead-end young adult-hood, sister hating me, grandparents counting down to death, no money, nothing under the Christmas tree, lots of hypocrisy and blame coming from the messengers of G-d, news constantly bad, and lest I forget, no friends living in the ass end of the town nowhere near any socializing opportunity.

My mom had her crocheting and the bible. My sister had her mysterious boyfriend. My father had my step-brothers and half-sister. I had...

Through a series of bad choices, dead-end jobs, and futureless drudgery I continued on growing ever more angry and sad. If I screamed with anger, tears would be on my face at the same time. I didn't know if I wanted to kill someone else or myself more, and was growing fearful of the race to the finish to see which it would be.

The one thing I thought I knew was, "well, even G-d doesn't want me. I am screwed."

I remember that I'd cry a lot. I wasn't looking for sympathy or pity and aren't now. Just so you know.

I'd cry to G-d, begging Him to let me come home. Home was where the heart was, my heart wasn't in any of this, and short of it having nowhere to be, then there must be somewhere I belonged.

He wouldn't say anything. Or maybe I couldn't hear over the crying inside. When would my dad tell me he was proud of me? When would my step-dad tell me I was good enough to be his son? When would my mother understand I was more than the boy she didn't want? Was someone ever going to like me? How nice did I have to be to get someone to not hate me? When would the phone ring and someone be on the other end for me? Even after my sister had left, calls came for her. None for me. Not even my dad, just to shoot the breeze.

Years passed, every one not bringing anything new. My dad played golf and tried to teach both of my step-brothers and my sister's boyfriend even... but never once did he ask me. He talked with me about how great the graphite clubs were. I think the last time he actually did something where he taught me something must have been just before the divorce... I must have really done something horrible to make him leave. He seemed to stop sharing with me then. All those years of waiting to become a legal adult, a man, and nope... nothing more did he teach me father to son. Not even his beloved game of golf. Maybe he thought I was too... not sporty enough. My brother was handsome, fast, strong, got girls, and played little league. So did I and I was on the team that won the town championships.

Like that mattered to anyone or was remembered by anyone. My dad wasn't there for that either. Other guys had their dad show... not me, I had my mother bring me.

Are you there G-d? Hellloooooo?

Not a response. Either He wasn't talking or I couldn't hear him. Six of one, half dozen of another.

My mother became I thought my best friend, but in her own way withdrew from me too. She'd change the subject whenever I tried to strike up any meaningful conversation. Remind me of having cable television. Or that I had books to read. Yeah thanks mom. I come talk to you and you'd rather I go play outside. I guess there might be a squirrel to tell my suicide note to.

I wrote that damn letter in my head over and over. I was going to make everyone sorry or at least escape the horror that no one would be sorry. If no one cared at finding me hanging there, then at least I'd be too dead to notice.

My grandfather spent time with me, but it was like I was Gilligan to the Skipper most days. If not being yelled at then certainly still underfoot and just someone to tell anecdotes to. About WWII no less. Death camps, tanks running over casualties with guts splattering everywhere, Nazi dive bombers, French countryside running red with blood... Great stuff for a kid.

Yeah, I'm bouncing around here as the memories bounce around. Parallel overlapping stripes of themes one on top of another. I was good enough to... ehh... but not whatever enough to spend time with talking about anything that meant anything to me. Why did dad go? Why didn't he visit me regularly as if visitation meant anything? Now that I was older why did dad still not pal around with me and choose my step-brothers instead? Why didn't my mother talk with me? About anything? Why did my grandmother not talk to me? Why did my grandfather talk at me and not to me?

"So if I must be lonely, I think I'd rather be alone..."

There's something to that line from Stabbing Westward's Save Yourself. Better to have never known anyone or any love or happiness than to lose it.

I kept writing that note over and over in my head and finally stopped, figuring I'd just wander off and simply not come back. They'd not notice. It would cause no one any pain.

However, before I could, someone who didn't heretofore talk to me did.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Internet isn't just a cesspool...

It's also an indispensable tool. For instance I was troubled by one English translation of Deuteronomy 6:5 where it was written about loving G-d with among other things, all your "possessions". How can I love G-d with my blender? That sounds transcendentally kinky and verrryy wrong.

Well if you Google these terms: deuteronomy 6:5 possessions, you get this.

Now it makes more sense and I'm not so troubled anymore.

It was at by the way in case you were wondering. I've seen about five different phrasings so far across Jewish and Christian sites in tonight's look-up. pages on demand!

Or if not by your demand, then because I can find something uplifting faster than a tax hike.

The Discovery of Planet Earth. I quote:

We got to the moon. The moon was barren. We sent probes to Mars. Mars was dead. To the icon of beauty, to Venus. She was dressed in poisonous, burning clouds. And then the pockets of the United States Congress were also barren to fund our useless dreams.

It was then that we looked back from outer space and discovered something we had never imagined. A shining jewel in the vast darkness. Never before had we known her beauty. The most beautiful planet a mind could dream of.

I needed to read this. Thank you G-d. I suggest you take the mouse more often too. I really don't need to see some places on the net. They make me so unhappy. This doesn't.

*Disclaimer for the depressed skeptics: Can you please let people be with what fulfills their spirits for a moment? There doesn't have to be a weighing of the educational, moral, ethical, or other values on every little thing. Sometimes fluff serves a very non-fluffy purpose. Read the previous story on this blog about what happens when you don't have happy uplifiting messages in your life and indeed, just the opposite.

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All about the death of hope

This is the end result of what we see in the world today, the selling of hopelessness.

It happened much faster, but the end result is what the world is doing to itself all the time. Tying a belt around our collective necks and hanging ourselves in despair.

Fear, anger, frustration, despair, hopelessness. They need to have big warning messages on them. DANGER: DANGEROUS SUBSTANCE. DO NOT INGEST.

While I feel bad for the girl, she is gone now and all that are left to feel bad for are the living. The parents who lost their child and now are warped by pain, and those who began this dangerous foul lark, whose consciences will forever be tortured.

Give G-d your condolences when you pray next. He's got His work cut out for Him in this.

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Is Suitepotato a convert or is he in process of converting or what?

This question is a good one Chaim. It gives me an excuse to blog. Like I need one. :)

The beginning:
I was born to if not good observant then at least passingly caring Catholic parents. They weren't bad people. A little self-absorbed with their own pains I suppose. Knowing now how they were raised by my largely now late grandparents, I am sometimes surprised they didn't become ardent atheists. Stand up, sit down, kneel, cross this way, cross that way, yes we're attending a Catholic chuch but be nice and smile like someone suffering fools gladly for your Baptist minister uncle. G-d says no meat on Friday, okay, Vatican II says G-d was kidding, what, you want to know if Jesus was the messiah for his sake or G-d's? We're awaiting another Lateran Council for clarification. Okay, pray in Latin. Just kidding, back to English. Make nice with the guitar playing nun and don't tick her off, she's on the diocese softball team and that guitar makes a real big bat.

It was into this confusing allegedly Christian world I popped. Almost as if a foretelling of my future I was circumcised right away. It was already being phased out back then and there's no big emphasis on the so-called Old Testament in Catholicism except where it serves to make the priest de jure think you're listening just a little bit more than five seconds before he mentioned G-d turning people into salt. Snipping any part of your anatomy is not something Catholics spend any time on, nor should they. I'm not comfortable with anyone's spending too much time on my anatomy. Good thing brit milah is as quick as possible or in my case to be hatafat dam brit.

As an aside, if you dare to visit and cycle through the self-destruction visualized therein, you might come across things even more disturbing to do to your genitalia there. Also, you might need medical help to get your eyelids to close properly again as they'll have gone so wide, your eyes might fall out. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED. Downright unholy stuff there. I've seen it so thank you G-d it's just a little sterilized needle prick and over with, like taking your blood sugar test.

Onward through the years I went in the church not particularly getting anything spiritual out of it. Sit down, stand up, kneel. Catholic Calisthenics every Sunday, facetious quibbling over Friday's choice of main dinner component when pizza or McDonald's was more likely, more evasion of the usual questions children ask when they smell b.s. in the water.

"We execute murderers and other criminals?"


"Did Jews execute other criminals?"

"Not since they were in charge of their own nation. The Romans executed people."

"So Jesus wasn't killed by Jews."


"Wasn't Jesus a Jew?"


"So the Romans executed Jesus?"

"I guess so... Go outside and play."

I'd look up at the cross in church, wondering if that five hundred pound wood and plaster kitsch would fall on someone, and get nervous with fright whenever the priest stood directly under it. G-d was supposed to be a real hellish deity, able to outdo Satan for sheer audacity. The devil would only seduce people to bad things. G-d would create them one minutes and drown them in flood the next. Even the devil never got to throw death around in that big a way. G-d made hurricanes which were more powerful than atomic bombs according to science class. Satan made... what?

G-d never did anything with that cross. It hung there all the while the priest went on in the manner of what would later be somewhat satirized by Eddie Izzard except that he was using it to poke at the Church of England. It might as well have been about hair and fashion magazines. It ran together like mush and as I got older and paid more attention it contradicted itself.

This of course is not good. Contradiction is to gentile kids what the Internet is to some Charedi men. A real neck snapping double-taking whoa there horsey moment. I had my crisis of faith start at Sunday school which for those so Jewish they never learned a thing about Christians other than the holiday sales, was sort of like a fat-free sugar-free ultra-light version of what my wife still refers to as "Hebrew School" which was in actuality little more than a far too late and too little touch-up in a hurry before her bat mitzvah.

We were supposed to cover all the minutae that couldn't fit into a sermon or the usual repetition of prayers held out before us like a superstitious attempt at warding off woodchucks from the garden with old folk-tale mixtures of urine and other things... and about as effective. Bad things still happened to good people. Kids I knew were still crying themselves to sleep hungry, as I did many times. Parents slept around on each other. Divorce was rampant. Drugs were everywhere. Yet somehow the world was firmly held to work a principle of bad stuff only happens to bad people. Therefore, if you are pained, you've been bad.

Little old Italian Catholic grandmothers could go toe to toe in a guilt olympics with any Jewish grandmother. G-d sees what you're doing, He knows you're even thinking about back-talk, and He's already getting your punishment ready... Now go do what I tell you and turn the heater up and then go rake the lawn, and then put the leaves on the mulch pile, and then get the mower. Don't complain. It's G-d's will you respect your elders... No matter how much they milked it.

Like I said, b.s. in the water. What did I do? When did I do something to deserve going hungry? What did I do to deserve it? What in the name of G-d could I possibly have done? I was seven for crying out loud! I'm not this Hitler person the teachers go on about. I'm just seven!

The following year Jim Jones crept out of the shadows and onto the television. I wasn't him either. I was just eight.

It only got worse. The idea was put to me and no argument accepted, G-d punishes people so they must deserve whatever bad happens. My father cheated on my mom. My mom decided that the whole Christ-preached forgiveness thing wasn't for her and filed for a divorce almost the same day. What did I do to make my dad move away? What did I do to make my mom mad at my dad? I talked, pretty much screamed at Jesus Christ and G-d. WHY???!!!

Never did hear anything back. Maybe I was screaming in pain too much to hear Him.

I tried reading the bible cover to cover. Started with the old testament and saw just more of the idea that G-d was a pretty persnickety deity. Seemed to have a thing for some guy that they must have named Lincoln after and all his kids. There was the whole bit about the boat and all the animals, which they endlessly use for kids' books religious or not because kids like animals and boats. Noah had both? Can't miss! They were light on the whole sinful world part though. I wondered if all the people who drowned did so because they were busy doing drugs, sleeping around, and too heavy with gold chains on their necks to swim. You know the part that I'm talking about? Imagine the sights of Studio 54 being your model for the imagery.

It went on endlessly it seemed about some people called Jews that Jesus came from who seemed to get the crap kicked out of them for no apparent reason on a way too regular basis like G-d was messing with them. I could feel for them. I got the crap kicked out of me at school for no reason on a regular basis.

After a while, I fell away from my attempt somewhere just before the death of Jesus. I already had that one special delivered in Sunday school. It was their whole central schtick. They went to great lengths to infer without saying it that Jews killed Jesus while downplaying that Jesus was a Jew though they didn't spare the mentions when it came to the Romans. Then we were one big happy family, us versus those guys with the scrub brushes on their silly helmets.

Well anyhow, G-d wasn't anywhere in there. He didn't talk to me when I read any of it.

So I looked elsewhere for G-d. I stopped going to church and Sunday school simply by waiting till my mother was least able to spend time on fighting with me over it. Either argue, or get the groceries, laundry, and part-time job done. Pick on or the other, you can't have both.

My mom meanwhile was having her own crisis of faith which led her to the church of arts and crafts before bringing her around to born-again Christianity which was a whole other world of say one thing about G-d then demonstrate another pain and misery.

Which is where the next post will take up...

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Monday, November 12, 2007

Messianic Musing 2

Okay, as I said...

Did you get it? I thought all weekend about it.

G-d frequently asks questions in an order that seems reversed but there's a reason to it. The first question was who said we needed saving. Hmmm? Anyone?

Okay, no, proceed to the second, who or what do we need saving from?

Come on... The answer for BOTH questions is... well, go look in a mirror.

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So recently health care was mentioned on RWAC...

Wherein I said:
That which need be done or achieved to be meritorious of His direct intervention itself brings about a state no different than had He directly intervened and may be if you are wont to, chalked up to Him.

At least, that's what I was once told.

However, it can also be said you cannot help people who will not accept it. Most health costs are for those things that never should have been taken so far. Cigarette smoking, fatty diets, lack of exercise, nasty unhealthy foods, etc.Does today's America look like it is full of people who want to be told what to do, what is moral, what's good for them?* No. You can't tell me what to do! Just suggesting is an attempt to control me! I will stick bananas in my ears! (Until they cause enough irritation to require an emergency banana-ectomy.)

So go back to what I started with. When people start doing and living better their remaining medical issues will be so inexpensive by comparison with right now that we can easily afford universal health care without any political games, without property expropriation, without taxation without alleged representation, etc.

*Yes, in a weird way. They just want to think THEY invented the idea.

To elaborate:

The problem is clouded because we're assuming that every medical problem is not the patient's fault or cause. And in doing so we assume that none of those in the future will be either.

We need to do several things:

1. Stop assuming that things must be just because they are. We have lots of fat smokers. We do not necessarily HAVE TO HAVE lots of fat smokers.

2. Stop assuming that current trends will continue. If they did then by the time I was 37, I'd be 68,719,476,736 (237-1) which is somewhere around the time I pay off my mortgage. As a continuation of number 1, we WILL NOT ALWAYS HAVE lots of fat smokers, not for the least of which reasons is that the present ones will die and more subtly, we can prevent more.

3. On the heels of numbers 1 and 2, START assuming WE CAN do something about the root causes of the vast majority of health issues.

Why are we in this morass? Because 1, 2, and 3 were violated. We assumed we'd always have health care that didn't cost a lot, there were lots of doctors, we had many advances happening every day... we assumed we could live any way we wanted and above all those three, we violated number 4.

4. Stop letting people off the hook into the future. We ARE responsible for MUCH of our health issues AND while we CANNOT do anything about the past, we can stop being idiots and learn from our mistakes and deviate onward through the future away from the path to destruction. Forgive, but do not forget. Judge but offer a course of correction and help. Be stern and just, but be loving and embracing.

Here's an excellent Jewish angle: the laws of kashrut are what they are for what reason? Because G-d is an anal-retentive sadistic food critic? No. Why then? Well, at the very least if you don't want to get into the moral minutae, you can assume that a kind loving G-d has a moral reason for it all. Therefore, are we not violating the rules by treating them like a free pass? As long as the shochet did a superb job, eat as much meat as you like? No. We are allowed to eat meat as a divine but dark gift. Life is G-d's crowning achievment. He lets us kill some animals and eat their flesh but it should never be something we take for granted.

It doesn't matter if the shochet is an angel and can turn off the cow's life without a knife like flipping a switch. Something still died for that meat. It was what can be semi-laughingly called a necessary evil.

You should therefore think harder about what you eat. While G-d doesn't command vegetarianism much less veganism, He certainly does seem to be raising one eyebrow and glancing at it like a secretary trying to get her boss' attention like "psst! Hey! Look who's at the front counter!"

Maybe you should see what G-d is angling at and eat a little more healthy.

I was shopping for groceries the other evening and thought back to Braveheart and thought, "many years from now, dying in a hospital bed, would you be willing, to give all the days, from this to that, to come back here and tell your appetite, you can take my attention, but you'll never take... my nutrition!"

So I shop the kosher and health food sections, not fifteen feet apart, not coincidentally having almost identical occurences of the Circle U. I've cut my pipe and cigar smoking. I've lost weight. I've cut the withdrawal time on my antidepressent by two weeks worth of nausea and diarhea. I feel a lot better and have much more energy. I won't need nearly so much medical care in the future. And it was all by my choice to listen to G-d.

So rabbis... Start your sermonizing!

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One of the first sites I check every day...

Lazer Beams with Rabbi Lazer Brody

There's nothing I can write which will compare with reading it. Maybe its just my musty religious past that makes it so new and refreshing and yet so familiar (nuns with guitars after Vatican II anyone?) which makes me appreciate it. Maybe because in a way it's like one of those books on the Baal Shem Tov and other Chasidim. There's just something very not fake about the love here. VERY NOT fake.

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Sunday, November 11, 2007

Messianic Musing

Me: Has the messiah come and if so, who, and if not, when?

G-d: Who said you needed saving?

Me: Uh...

G-d: And from what?

Me: Er...

G-d: Yeah, you get back to me on this when you answer those questions.

Me: Okay...