All in the Family featured the curmudgeonly Archie Bunker. Archie was television’s most famous grouch, blunt, blustering, straightforward and untouched by the PC crowd. He was the archetype of the conservative male. Michael desprately tried to reeducate him, but he persisted in his breviloquence.



Looking back at the last 40 years, we realize: ARCHIE WAS RIGHT!

8/31/2014

Circumcision

Why did God ordain the rite of male genital mutilation known as circumcision for the Jews?

God being the designer, and creator could have made man any way He desired.  If He was anti foreskin, why put it on in the first place?  Arguably He didn't have too.  He could have made men foreskin free as the au natural model.  If it was something just for the Jews he could have blessed Abraham with a genetic variation for his male descendants.  Snipping didn't have to be part of the plan. 

In many places today circumcision is the default, it hasn't always been that way.  All a mom has to do is check a box on a form at the hospital and it happens. 

No man has ever wanted a sharp object in the vicinity of THAT part of his body.  That's why they get you before you can think about it, or have any say. Most guys aren't in favor of any procedure that would reduce the perceived size of his manly appendage.  It not only doesn't sound like fun but it seems like it would hurt, a lot.
Yet this procedure is the one that God, in His wisdom ordained as a requirement for his special people the Jews.  It's not like this circumcision stuff was a suggestion either.  It's a big deal to God.  God's number one Jew, (remember Abraham wasn't a Jew, he is the father of Israel) a guy named Moses almost got himself killed over not circumcising his boys.

So what is it about a flap of skin on a wiener (that could have been left off during creation) that drives God bonkers?

Back in Genesis God is having a conversation with Abram about a legal agreement or covenant that they are going to enter into.  The covenant isn't much of an agreement, basically God makes a commitment to do a lot of great stuff for Abram.  Abram gets his name changed to Abraham and all the guys get their manliness trimmed back a bit.  This "deal" is an ongoing ordeal for all the generations of the decedents of Isaac. A few hundred years latter the deal gets amended to; snip-snip, and keep the law of Moses.  Basically the deal remains the same for the Jews, get it sniped on the eighth day or else.

I'm willing to accept correction on this point, but as far as I can tell nothing in scripture tells us why.  No explanation is given that I'm aware of.  Since the answer isn't given, I'm going to take my shot at it.

I think the answer is rooted in two things.  The first is in sin.  The second is the inherent nature of women.

Every married guy can related to the fact that a woman's mind (and her mouth) don't work they way we think they should.  Women keep roughly a quadzillion different things floating about in their heads at any one time.  The female of the species has this insane need to talk about whatever is going on in her head.  She doesn't know she has this need and she doesn't know that her mouth is going speak, but trust me it is. 

It seems like every time the Jews got in trouble with God, the problem was rooted in idolatry.  Throughout history the Hebrews would follow God for a bit and everybody would be happy.  Then they would get involved in worshiping idols and everything would get bad for them.  Most of the time part of what made the idol worship interesting was all the fun stuff you did to worship them.

An otherwise good Jewish boy gets led astray to go worship idols.  This worship was offered either as animal or human sacrifices and a drunken orgy, or as a visit to one of the many temple prostitutes. He pays the money.  She starts getting undressed.  He's thinking to himself, "this beats prayer shawls and phylacteries".  He strips off his robe and starts to make his move.  The girl points and much more loudly than needed and in her most concerned voice asks, "why does IT look like THAAAAAT?".

"Well, it looks like that because I'm one of God's special people that would never worship anyone other than Him" he thinks and sins anyway.  Circumcision was a last ditch reminder that the Jews were God's special holy people.  These people were supposed to do some things and not suppose to do others.  God knew he could count on temple prostitutes to remind His people who they were better than they could remind themselves.

8/28/2014

Memento mori

I just returned home from serving as pallbearer.

It was a nice service.  The whole affair was tastefully done.  The kids and grandkids were gathered as were folks form out of state that made the trip.  Only one of the grandsons was unable to make it.  He is in Okinawa waiting for deployment to some place else.  His LT would allow the visit home but the plane ticket would be over $1,800 and there was no guarantee he could be back in time to make movement.  If he missed deployment it would create serious repercussions for him.  Other than that it was a good funeral if there is such a thing.

I think I first encountered the idea of memento mori in Mr. Rogers English class.  We discussed the idea as it related to the poem in Shropshire Lad, Is My Team Plowing?  The concept came up in other early educational venues as well.  Being young I mostly ignored it unless it was related to some great battle.  Then I glamorized it and promptly forgot all about it.  Latter on I saw the movie about Jim Morrison, it started off with a line that included:
"The movie will begin in five moments," the mindless voice announced. All those unseated will await the next show. We filed slowly, languidly into the hall. The auditorium was vast and silent. As we seated and were darkened, the voice continued, "The program for this evening is not new. You've seen this entertainment through and through. You've seen your birth, your life and death. You might recall all the rest. Did you have a good world when you died? Enough to base a movie on?"
"Memento mori as a literary technique, cool", I thought. Being young I forgot all about the concept and went on living.

Today I stood wearing my pallbearer carnation on a sunny hill top.  I was lined up with the other pallbearers standing at parade rest.  My position was at the head of the casket that we just positioned over the grave.  The preacher was to my right at the head of the casket delivering the graveside invocation.  My mind wandered.

The cemetery is almost at the center of our town.  It sets up on one of the highest hills.  You over look the whole area.  I could see the grain load outs, the coalmine and power plant, railroad tracks, the state highway and interstate, the old high school as well as the new one.   If the mesa wasn't in the way I might have even been able to see my house.   Hundreds if not thousands of people below us were rushing about their lives on a beautiful summer day.

Memento mori.  Remember your death.  Remember it all the days of your life.  Live accordingly.  One day this life ends.  It is appointed to man once to die and then the judgment.  In the days of my youth I was taught this.  The thrill of living was too new, the rush of blood in my veins to strong, the smell of my lovers hair and the taste of her lips too sweet.  I was taught but did not understand.

Memento mori.  One day your friends and family will gather round.  There will be pretty flowers but you will not see them.  There will be kind words, but you will not hear them.  Hopefully they will laugh at some funny anecdote or quirk of yours.  It will last about an hour.  Then you get to run all the red lights and stop signs on the way to the grave.  A little devotional service, flowers placed on the coffin....

Someone said, "Amen".  Reflexes kicked in and I said "amen" just a tad behind everyone else.  Back to a lunch of fried chicken and pie.

Memento mori.

8/27/2014

Rabbi B

I've developed a theological interest in all things Hebrew.  My reason for this interest has more to do with understanding my own faith than a desire to convert to Judaism.  This last year I started reading a introductory book (Meet the Rabbis) to try to gain an understanding of some basic Hebrew concepts.  That book isn't the basis for all of my curiosity and not everything that interests me is related beyond the general topic of "Jewish".  Some basic questions I have are:
  1. What is a good English translation of the Traditions and other Jewish commentary on the Tanakh?
  2. What other resources are necessary for understanding traditional/ancient Jewish thought?  Are there commentaries that are more esteemed and useful than others?  
  3. Do I need to learn ancient Hebrew in order to undertake a serious study of Judaism or are there enough English translations to keep me in reference material?
  4. If I need to learn Hebrew what are good resources/tools?
Some general if not off the wall topics/questions:

  1. The Jewish year is 5774.  I was wondering what resources there are that would help me understand the method reckoning time according to the ancient methods (I get that it is reckoned from creation).
  2. Somewhat calendar related.  I am curious to learn more about the traditional feasts and symbology associated with them.
  3. Jewish eschatology.
  4.  Circumcision.  Why?  I think I have figured out an answer to this on my own but since I have a Rabbi available I'd like a more enlightened view.
If you can address those 8 it would be a more than generous gift of your time.  I have more questions, but I don't want to over burden your kindness.  If you can point me to good reference material preferably in English I can do research on my own.

My thanks in advance.

Contrast

I'm going to take the lazy blogger approach today and not link to the stories that got me thinking about this topic.  I'm doing that because the stories don't matter that much in my thought process. 

Over the last couple of weeks I've seen several news blurbs about this person or that person going to some third world crap hole to fight for this cause or that.  One story was about some black kid going back to Africa and getting killed.  Another was about going to the middle east and fighting for terrorism.  Sometimes the stories are about immigrants that have done this and are returning to fight in their homeland.  Sometimes its a religious thing, sometimes not.  Some of these kids live in America, but I've noticed that some of the stories concern people that have immigrated to England or Norway or wherever.

The political slant of the person writing the story will tell you how they feel about this sort of thing.  Some writers will call returning to fight "treason" or "un-American".  Others are morally neutral reporting the event.  Which is why I found it interesting when I saw a story about an American kid who joined the IDF and got himself killed in Gaza.  The reporting on that varied from the "objective" morally neutral perspective to the positively glowing.

On one hand I agree it is "un-American" to go fight in a war in which America has no national interest.  But if we use that as a test for sending young men to war, then the United States Government has been involved in "un-American" wars for about 150 years.  Even if going off to fight in someone else's war isn't kosher (except in the case of the boy getting killed in the IDF) that doesn't mean people shouldn't be allowed to do it.

It's a great idea for people to take sides and go fight for what they believe in.  I'd like to see more of it.  Consider what would be the out come if every person in the US who thought he had a dog in someone else's fight, simply went and fought.  I didn't say, agitate till we as a country sent our boys to fight.  If you believe someone's war is a good war, pick your side, get your own gun and ammo and go fight it.

As long as people leave this country and go fight in another country its all good.  Let every Muslim go back to the middle east and do what they think best.  Same with the blacks, go shoot each other in Africa over whatever it is you shoot each other over.  Same with the Jews.  Same with the fair-haired white folks in a snit over the Ukraine.  There is a war somewhere, go pick a side and fight it.

As long as you leave the rest of us out of it, and don't bring the problem here, I think its a fine idea for you to go fight for "your side".

Killer


8/25/2014

Home Town Proud

I like pizza.  I used to like pizza more than I do today.  Back in college I did a stint as a night manager at what was at the time the busiest Pizza Hut in America.  My enjoyment of pizza has only gone down hill since then.  As I reflect on this story of the socially undeveloped, over reaching into other peoples business, I can only wonder if Steven's pizza is any good.

Pizza parlor's church discount gives atheists indigestion
Steven Rose loves Jesus and pepperoni pizza.
But when the Searcy, Arkansas restaurateur decided to mix church and cheese it gave a group of out-of-town atheists a bad case of indigestion.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) is threatening to sue Steven after he offered a discount to customers who bring in a church bulletin. They said Bailey’s Pizza is violating the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
To paraphrase the words of another great southerner, "Arkansas restaurants don't need Wisconsin Atheists around anyhow".

A handful of socially autistic religious fanatics, that are based in Wisconsin, are mad that a pizza place in Arkansas gives folks a 10% discount on their pizza if they bring in a church bulletin.   Not only are they mad, but they want to take the guy to court over it.

Searcy is a town of about 23,500 people not counting the enrollment in Harding University.  For a town of that size they have (according to quick count I did on the internet) 73 churches.  I'm pretty sure that not everybody in White County goes to church but if they did it would mean that the average size of a church in Searcy would be about 320 people.  Incidentally White County AR is what is known locally as a "dry" county.  That means no alcohol sales except under specific exceptions.  What do you think the chances are that these people take their church going seriously?

My guess is that its about as easy to get a church bulletin in Searcy as it is to get a "howdy" walking down the street.  That bulletin will get you 10% off a pizza Bailey's Pizza.  Well somebody ought to put a stop to that.  Thank god we have concerned atheists up in Wisconsin to put an end to this unmitigated evil.  Maybe while they're at it they could make it mandatory to serve beer to wash it down with.

When it's all said and done, the FFRF have driven more business in to Bailey's than any amount of church bulletin discounts could ever have.  If it hadn't been for the FFRF I'd never have wanted to go to Searcy for pizza.  Mostly I try to get catfish and hushpuppies, but now I'll have to think about getting a slice next time I'm in town.