The Forest in Symbolism and History

Could this really happen?

“Absalom was riding on a mule, and the mule went under the thick branches of a large tree, and his head got entangled in the big tree, so that he was suspended in midair while the mule he had been riding kept going.” (2 Samuel 18:9)

That’s one bad boy of a tree is all I can say!

Maybe the problem was the mule. 9966A8AB-262E-4143-B56A-46A12C52ABD9 “A mule will labor ten years, willingly and patiently for you, for the privilege of kicking you once,” wrote William Faulkner. Absalom’s mule may not have kicked him, but it sure did do him dirty, hanging him up so hit man Joab could off him.

Maybe it was was the forest. You ‘can’t see the forest for the trees,’ but in this case Absalom can’t see the tree for the forest. 20,000 combatants died and “the forest devoured more of the people than the sword did on that day,” says the verse just prior (8). Maybe it was one of those ‘Lord of the Rings’ forests.

‘Lord of the Rings’ forests are built on a solid tradition of forests being treacherous, even places where the Devil hangs out! 116BEC57-458D-4F1F-B90F-A5EF81889517Mistress Higgins is forever trying to lure folks into the forest for unsavory shenanigans with ‘the Black Man.’ (The author of the Scarlet Letter, Nathanial Hawthorne, modeled her after a real person, Ann Higgins, who was executed for witchcraft in 1656.) That forest was one foreboding place, where “the boughs were tossing heavily above their heads; while one solemn old tree groaned dolefully to another, as if telling the sad story of the pair that sat beneath, or constrained to forebode evil to come.”

But at the same time, push deeply enough into the forest and break freeeeee! or at least settle for that illusion.

Backward to the settlement, thou sayest!” Hester remonstrates with Dimmesdale. “Yes; but onward, too! Deeper it goes, and deeper, into the wilderness, less plainly to be seen at every step; until, some few miles hence, the yellow leaves will show no vestige of the white mans tread. There thou art free! So brief a journey would bring thee from a world where thou hast been most wretched, to one where thou mayest still be happy! Is there not shade enough in all this boundless forest …

Guelzo (without quoting Hawthorne—that’s mine) points to early writers of American history with this Janus-view of the forest. (Janus—the ‘two-faced’ god facing both left and right) Fearful, on the one hand, but promising on the other. Though the ‘promising’ is for an ‘unpromising’ reason. Press into the forest deep enough and you can escape your own screw-ups from the past! The early American view of history according to Guelzo? “Don’t have any, don’t need any, don’t want any.”.  In new America, the “human experiment” can begin anew!

(“Gimme that fruit!” Adam said. “Let the ‘human experiment’ begin!” ‘No, no, no,’ God tacitly says. ‘You’ll screw it all up! Trust me on this, you do not want to usurp the duty of telling good from bad!’ ‘Nah,’ comes the reply—what can go wrong?)

It’s not winners who came to America. It was losers, those driven out for religious reasons, crushed by financial reasons, or refugees from ‘man dominating man to his injury’ reasons. The first settlers “were radical Puritans who were looking for a way out from under the thumb screws of the Church of England. It was only after every other avenue of escape [was] closed off to them that . . . they turned to those vast . . . countries of America” (Guelzo) And “looking over the bow of the Mayflower what could they see [but a] hideous and desolate wilderness full of wild beasts and wild men. Why, said [William] Bradford, even the air, diet, and drinking of water in America would infect their bodies with sore sicknesses and grievous diseases.”

That forest was a dangerous place, make no mistake. It remained ever dangerous in waves of westward expansion, though fear was mixed with growing confidence as humans invented, and then led, with bulldozers Upon reaching the coast and finally conquering the forest, what remains?

“Space—the final frontier,” intones James T. Kirk, introducing a show that would have been dead on arrival were it not for Lucille Ball. The forests are all conquered, some trees rounded up for a ‘tree museum’ for which you must pay a dollar and a half just to see ‘em! (Joni Mitchell) Space is the new frontier. Boldly going where no man has gone before! What is discovered out there? Guys that look just like us, save for pointed ears. Is that evolution great stuff or what!? Pour me a double-shot of it!

What do aliens gain from their new contact with humans? “One damn minute,” Spock pleasantly responds to one of Captain Kirk’s commands. He’s learned to swear! He had just spent the entire 45 previous episodal minutes on 20th-century earth; he had time-traveled there for some reason and Kirk had told him to use profanity. Keep tuque pulled over ears, swear, and they’ve never know you’re not one of them, he tells the Vulcan.

What a stupid, brain-dead, ignorant stab at science fiction prophesy! How unrealistic! However, had he said, ‘One f**ken minute,’ the forecast would have been spot-on. That’s the course ‘evolution’ has taken.

They didn’t learn that in no forest. No way. They were in all their civilized glory when they adopted that new norm.

To be continued:

******  The bookstore

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Climate Change and Global Warming: To Be or Not to Be?

The former local weatherman, Kevin Williams, tweets a photo of all his weather chums at a restaurant. "Aha!" I said. "I KNEW it. It IS a cabal! There IS collusion!" He liked that.

Now, I happen to know that Kevin Williams thinks global warming is a hoax. It is no secret. He is very open about it. He follows and sometimes retweets content of the man-on-a-mission climate change denier JWspry. (NOT, so far as I know, any connection to the JW of Jehovah's Witnesses) So I tweeted: "Are they across the board on global warming or on the same page, one way or another?"

No answer.

So I tweeted: "Ahh. Avoiding the answer to that question is the key to continued cohesion. Probably as it should be. Not everything has to be a fight."

He liked that one.


Of course. You can't fight all the time. People believe what they believe, according to how they interpret the facts. Or more likely, they believe what they believe, and then spin the available facts to give themselves intellectual cover. We are not nearly so unemotional as the champions of critical thought would have us believe. We are dominated by emotion forged in experience and we thereafter consult our brains to make it fly logically.

It is even as the Bible says with spiritual things. "Prove to yourselves the good and acceptable and perfect will of God," says Romans 12:2. "Taste and see that Jehovah is good," says Psalm 34:8. What if someone tastes and sees that he is bad? Other than to advise he check his taste buds, there is little you can do about it. So don't get into judging. Present your version of truth as persuasively as you can and leave it at that. God knows whether he is a Trinity or not. He also knows whether he exists or not. Let him sort it out.

I asked Kevin (or was it JWspry?) about a previous post I wrote of how there was now 'Weather on Steroids.' He said it all depends upon what is reported. If you eagerly report all record highs and ignore all record lows, it does create that impression. Reporting means a lot. As Florence was churning over the Atlantic to deluge the Carolinas, everyone warned how it was especially fearsome because it was gathering strength over exceptionally warm waters made so by climate change. In fact, they were exceptionally cool waters and the surprise was that it became such a monster despite that.

Every time we hear, "it was the hottest summer since the year such and such," that means it was hotter in that year, and if anything, we are witness to global cooling, with lower highs. The stranded polar bear photo has admittedly been misrepresented, Al Gore's 'Inconvenient Truth' book has been lambasted for mishandling data to paint dire scenarios which have not panned out. To the extent emotion is the true driver in human affairs, Upton Sinclair's quote is the one to watch: "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it." Big money is involved, either way, in climate change.

Me, I don't go there. It's not my cause. If humans are not ruining the earth in a Revelation 11:18 scenario via global warming, it is not as though they are too responsible to ever ruin the earth; it is that their combined activity is not powerful enough to do it. They are ruining it in plenty of other ways. To the extent 'ruining the earth' reflects the ruining the earth scenario of Genesis 6, it is not environmental factors at all being spoken of, but violence. Do we live in a violent world today? Tell me about it.


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Will They Dare Say it With Regard to Child Porn?

The president gathers video game makers, says their products are too violent, and the media trots out experts bristling with degrees to 'correct him.'

Violent games substitute for the real thing and violence actually goes down, they say!

Will they dare say it with regard to child porn?

Video game

photo: crysis_2_shooter

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What is it Like in a Wind Tunnel?

NBC put a reporter a wind tunnel to tell us what that is like. He said it blows. He said it was not fine to be in a hurricane – you ought to steer clear.

‘okay, now at 70 miles per hour – whoa! – my clothes are flapping and anything not nailed to the ground is coming loose! I can’t even hold on to this pole – my grip is slipping!! There goes the toupee and my glasses! Now – oh no! – the wind is catching my cheeks!...

‘....fluppafluppafluppafluppafluppafluppafluppafluppafluppafluppafluppafluppafluppa!!!!!.... ‘Whoa! That was close! I almost couldn’t speak!’

Sheesh! Put him in rising flood waters and let him tell us what that is like!


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Enough of the 'Summer of Love' Already

If an 80-year-old visitor carries on the way he does about the Rat Pack vs the Beatles, he must positively lose it when he hears about the 1967 (or was it 68?) 'summer of love' - a time period highlighted by Woodstock. Even I, who lived through the time, tire of it, and always did. Image

At best, it was the summer of STDs. It was overgrown children kicking over the traces, as they have always done, but because it is charged with sex, rejecting the morals of their parents, it endures. That generation still trots out the phrase as though it was a glimmer of light in a dark world, a major assertion of love - and not just decadence.

Look, people have always slept around, but only with the 'summer of love' did it become a virtue. I suspect many of the current generation in which 2/3 have herpes have cursed their overindulgent elders.

I was part of the mob of college kids along for the ride, marching from campus into "downtown" Potsdam, NY. I caught a whiff of the pepper gas - man, you don't want to get near that stuff! I always thought it was phony - just an excuse to cut classes, riot, and party. That is not to say there were not sincere student protesters somewhere. But I never saw them.

It's very easy to grouse about something you don't like. Building something better is another thing entirely.

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Love, Marriage, and Politicians

As politicians go, they're popular. As politicians go, they're capable...Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City, and Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York State. Following notable trainwrecks of governorship, Cuomo has made inroads on the seemingly impossible.... prodding, cajoling, and otherwise leaning upon the notoriously dysfunctional State government to....well....function, at least to a degree. Don't get me wrong. He has a long long way to go. But he's made some progress, whereas predecessors have all broken apart on the unyielding rocks of intransigence.

So imagine my dismay when State Senator (and Pentecostal preacher!) Ruben Diaz blasts Cuomo and Bloomberg on the blogosphere for being “unmarried fornicators!” Wow! Talk about letting your light shine with a flame-thrower! I didn't know anything of their private lives, nor was I curious, but it turns out that  both men live with long-time girlfriends, not wives.ImagesCAOQECS1 “I, for my part, don’t want to offend anyone,” wrote Diaz on a cable show website, “but the Bible, the word of God, calls it fornication to live as husband and wife without having made this union a wedding officially blessed by God and man.”

Now, what are we to make of this? On the one hand.....

Sheesh! Were these two fellows elected to patch roads and herd politicians or teach Sunday School? Can't a guy learn to mind his own business? Whatever happened to 1 Thess 4:17-18, the famous MYOB verse, a verse some of us have learned to wear as a shield:

….make it your aim to live quietly and to mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we ordered you; so that you may be walking decently as regards people outside and not be needing anything. 

Or can we not catch more than a whiff of disapproval in Paul's next letter to that town of busybodies:

For we hear certain ones are walking disorderly among you, not working at all but meddling with what does not concern them.    2 Thess 3:11

John the Baptist pulled a stunt like this, and it cost him his head. Did he come to regret it?

For John had repeatedly said to Herod: “It is not lawful for you to be having the wife of your brother.” But Herodias was nursing a grudge against him and was wanting to kill him, but could not. For Herod stood in fear of John, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man; and he was keeping him safe.......But a convenient day came along when Herod spread an evening meal on his birthday for his top-ranking men and the military commanders and the foremost ones of Galilee. And the daughter of this very Herodias came in and danced and pleased Herod and those reclining with him. The king said to the maiden: “Ask me for whatever you want, and I will give it to you.” Yes, he swore to her: “Whatever you ask me for, I will give it to you, up to half my kingdom.....She said:....“I want you to give me right away on a platter the head of John the Baptist.” Although he became deeply grieved, yet the king did not want to disregard her, in view of the oaths and those reclining at the table. So the king immediately dispatched a body guardsman and commanded him to bring his head. And he went off and beheaded him in the prison and brought his head on a platter.     Mark 6:17-28

If Cuomo and Bloomberg are anything like Herod, Senator and Preacher Diaz should watch out. That's one way to look at it.

On the other hand.....

If Sen Diaz is “digging up dirt,” he certainly didn't invent the technique. Since time immemorial, accelerating in recent decades, politicians have gleefully slung mud at each other for pure mean political advantage. The excellent example playing out as I write is the Republican Primary race. (do we conclude anything from the fact that supporters in this contest physically resemble their candidates? I defy you to watch coverage and not be struck with that impression) Diaz, however, makes his charges not for political gain, but out of moral outrage. I respect that. After all, I, Tom Sheepandgoats, well-known in circles of matrimonial bliss for spoiling rotten the fabulously omnipresent Mrs Sheepandgoats, can hardly be expected not to empathize with Diaz, even if he is sticking his nose into what's none of his business.

Or is it indeed none of his business?

The reason Diaz gives for his remarks certainly rings true. “Everyone living in this situation is reinforcing the idea that it is okay to live in common law without being married” I give him credit for inserting common sense into a world that wants no part of it. We are heavily swayed by the example of others. It's so tempting to deny this, because it's a very unflattering truth. The selfish, the over-educated, and the headstrong do deny this, so as to pursue whatever they want to pursue without twinge of guilt or responsibility. But when a new fad appears on the scene, and within ten years we're all doing it....even as we look aghast at our photos 30 years did we ever think those glasses did anything for us?'s so flattering to the ego to think our vulnerability to our surroundings only extends to the trivial. It's so flattering, yet it's also so ridiculous. In matters small and great, we run with the herd. Barn doorSo Sen Diaz is absolutely right to insist public examples exert influence, whether they're meant to or not. Trouble is, isn't it a little late in the game to close the barn door?

I'm reminded again of the Circuit Overseer's remarks: “70* years ago the differences between Jehovah's Witnesses and churchgoers in general were ones of doctrine.” That is, conduct and morality was pretty much the same. Why have we retained traditional morality, whereas most lost it long ago? Because we've internalized Diaz' sentiments within our own organization. Because we have organization that insists upon studying God's sayings and adhering to them. Because we try to choose friends in harmony with that end. Because we realize that bad examples will influence others. Because we have internal discipline to curb bad influences. Believe me, we are roundly chastised for it by those who cherish blowing whichever way does the wind. But it has served to maintain Bible morality among us. Many churches also used to apply discipline to their members. But when they noticed parishioners didn't like it, they gave it up.

(* adjusted for the date spoken)

On the other hand......

The reason John the Baptist could get away with it (if having your head chopped off can be called “getting away with it”), or rather, the reason he could upbraid Herod for his unorthodox marriage without going down in history as a busybody or a template for Senator Diaz, is that Herod claimed to be a Jewish proselyte. He claimed to worship Jehovah. Does Coumo? Does Bloomberg? Not that I'm aware of. So what business are their private lives of mine? It would be like me reaching into the Catholic or Presbyterian church and demanding they make their folks adhere to Bible standards. Why would I do that? It's not my business.

Chalk this up to one of the oldest disputes regarding the role of religion toward the general world. Ought one stay at arms-length from it, keeping “no part of the world” while through a ministry inviting individuals from it to take a stand for God's Kingdom? Or ought one role up one's shirtsleeves, dive in and fix the world, or even convert it, viewing that as your ministry? We think the former, but many church groups think the latter.

If you think the role of Christians is to fix the world, then you have to fix the world with the tools you have. Thus, Senator Diaz' reprimand is entirely appropriate. But from the ranks of folks like him arise those who insist America is a “Christian nation,” and so strive with all their might to impose their standards upon it, (an impossible task, since the very idea of sovereign nations is foreign to God's will) and who might well blow Republican chances this election by ignoring all factors except religious affiliation in the candidates. Thus, Mitt Romney, widely considered the most viable of Republican choices, emerges a weak candidate from the Republican primary race (unless it occurs to his campaign to register dead voters).

But Jehovah's Witnesses view their role toward the world along the lines of 2 Corinthians 5:20:

We are therefore ambassadors substituting for Christ, as though God were making entreaty through us. As substitutes for Christ we beg: “Become reconciled to God.”

In short, using words of the verse, we invite persons to embrace God's purpose as their own, to become reconciled to him. It's a process that begins with a Bible study, which is how one finds out what God's purpose is. If someone reaches the point of wanting to “reconcile to God,” then, by degrees, he conforms his life to God's standards. But if he doesn't reach that point, if he has no interest in making inquiry, what business is it of ours how he live his lives? None. We don't try to make it such, nosing into his life to tweak this or that practice, let alone blasting him in public. Will there one day be an accounting for rejecting God's purpose and standards? JWs think know they do.....but it won't be at our hands. We fancy ourselves ambassadors of a kingdom, no more. We invite, we don't meddle. It's an important distinction, though perhaps one lost upon someone woken up Saturday morning at 9:30.



Tom Irregardless and Me     No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

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Stadium Prayer to the God of Perfect Stats

Football season's over. And though it was just whimsy at first, the more I turn the idea over in my head, the more I'd love to see it for next year: atheist football players with Matt 6:5 on their eyeblack. Or atheist fans with that verse on their bare chests.

“Also, when you pray, you must not be as the hypocrites; because they like to pray standing in the synagogues [substitute “stadiums”] and on the corners of the broad ways to be visible to men. Truly I say to you, They are having their reward in full. You, however, when you pray, go into your private room and, after shutting your door, pray to your Father who is in secret...”

ImagesCARZ5EKXWouldn't that balance out those characters praising the Lord after every punishing pass, tackle, or touchdown? And ought not today's American atheists be ashamed of themselves for not yet doing it? So much so that I'm beginning to reassess my long-held view that our atheists are cutting edge, as opposed to Britain's atheists, who are wusses.

But wait, Tom Sheepandgoats, just wait. Would you really, truly like to see it? Wouldn't that turn God into a laughingstock? It's a well-meaning question. I realize that. Trouble is, Evangelicals have already turned him into a laughingstock. And that's the best face you can put on it. The worst is that they've  turned him into an obscenity. I mean, wrap your head around the picture they present: God, for whatever reason, doesn't do much about suffering or injustice....those things go fact, they intensify....but he never misses a game, tweaking each play to bless the born-again players. That's the God that Evangelicals present us with. Can atheists make matters any worse? I don't think so.

But...but...what if the effusive John 3:16 crowd gets mad, and fistfights break out on the field and in the stands? Wouldn't that be bad, Tom Sheepandgoats? Well.....that could happen, and yes, it would be bad. But not worse than the present spectacle, and it might even prompt these gushing religionists to conduct their prayer life in accord with the Lord's words at Matt 6:5. And that would be a good thing.

I don't know how to play this Tebowing irritates me so. It's just like Paul strolling through the Aeropolis growing irritated at the idols. (Acts 17:16) If that got him irritated, he'd go ballistic over this! Should I spin it satirical? Relate how, back in the first century after a hard day doing religious stuff, the disciples would pair off into teams and play athletic games? And if one of them scored a goal, or run, or touchdown, he'd pump his fist and holler “GO LORD!” or “YEA GOD!” And how Peter especially would shout at such times “LORD, YOU ROCK!” expression which found it's way into scripture in a curiously garbled way? And how eventually the disciples forgot all about the religious stuff because the games were just so much more fun? But won't this border on blasphemy if I write all these things? Yes, I fear it will, but no more so than that which it satirizes, that which we see every Sunday on the field, throwing a pass, sacking a quarterback, or scoring a touchdown and praising God for it! As though the greatest miracle He might perform is to produce Perfect Stats! As though he revels in all the trophies he has produced for born-again players, knowing that their trophies are really His! Beaming with pride when the quarterback, having won a game, says "First of all, I want to thank my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!"

It wasn't always this way. Fran Tarkenton, who quarterbacked for the Vikings and Giants during the 1960's and 1970's, was religious. He'd been raised that way. Son of a Pentecostal Holiness minister, he'd attended church services Wednesday night, Friday night, Sunday morning and Sunday night. That's more meetings than Jehovah's Witnesses attend!! Far from his faith being “honored” by him playing football, he had to get a special dispensation to play in the NFL!

In a piece for the Wall Street Journal Opinion page, Mr Tarkenton writes that he “never understood why God would care who won a game between my team and another. It seemed like there were many far more important things going on in the world.” See? Common sense once prevailed, before Evangelicals came upon the scene. Even when he relates how the New York Giants team owner would invite “half the priests in New York City into the locker room before games.” ImagesCA5L63RLAt least they didn't burst onfield with players from the locker-room, crossing themselves as they ran!

Still, even after Tarkenson blasts right through the hypocrisy of making God a Fan, he concludes: “But seriously, isn't it refreshing that the chatter around the NFL is about a great athlete with great character who says and does all the right things and is a relentless leader for his team—and not about more arrests and bad behavior from our presumptive "heroes"?

No no no no no, Mr Tarkenton! NO! It isn't! Sam Harris is right. You must call a spade a spade! Of course Tebow is a great guy and a great player! Of course its good that he's not raping and pillaging, as some of his NFL cohorts are wont to do. That's not the point! The point is that he trivializes God, painting Him an avid fan, even while taking no interest, apparently, in the unspeakable worldwide atrocities we daily see on the news! All that remains is to paint Him with a Beer and a TV Remote, his Heavenly Throne now a Celestial Easy Chair! Imagine yourself a victim of such atrocity, and you cry out to God for justice or relief, or even understanding. Not now, not you expect Me to miss The Game? This is what the Evangelicals bring us! No matter how much I rail about it, it's not enough!

It's not just Tarkenton. Michael Medved, scratching his head, it seems, also writes in the Wall Street Journal. There have been other great religious atheletes, he observes. “Three great Jewish baseball players—Hank Greenberg in 1931, Sandy Koufax in 1965 and Shawn Green in 2001—drew mostly admiring comments when they refused to participate in crucial games that fell on Yom Kippur......So why should Tim Tebow draw more resentment than other religious athletes?”

Are you kidding me, Mr Medved? You don't know why? It's because Greenburg, Koufax, and Green's actions represent sacrifice. They represent service to God. They're giving up something....something important to them....for the sake of their faith. They're not simply putting a God smiley-face on what they'd be doing anyway, an activity which hardly seems endorsable by a God who says he doesn't care for violence, nor is he keen on the competitive spirit. That's what rankles folk! Look, if you want to play football, play football. Nobody has any problem with that. But don't go carrying on as if it's sacred service you're performing. It's not. It's football.

Matt 6:5 resonates. It rings true. Those oh-so-public in-your-face prayers, punctuating high points of a decidedly unChristlike activity just turn the stomach. “Hypocrites” is the inspired word Jesus uses at Matt 6:5, and everyone except Evangelicals knows Jesus hits the nail on the head.

There was some bunch of atheists somewhere who denounced Tim Tebow as a hypocrite, even adding that he was “full of crap.” But there's no reason to think so, not especially. By all accounts, he lives a virtuous life off-field. No, it's not a personal hypocrisy that he can be charged with. It's a systemic hypocrisy, inherent with a me-first religious system he's bought into...that he was born that it hardly seems fair to lambaste him personally. It's institutionalized hypocrisy, which these guys pick up as readily as breathing.

See prior Tebow post here.



Tom Irregardless and Me              No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

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Tebowing to the God of Football

ImagesCAABPHPTWhen you mention some acquaintance by name, and your companion brightens because he knows the fellow, but then clouds over because your description doesn't match his, there's no mystery. It's two separate people you're speaking of, who happen to share the same name; it's not the same person at all. This is a no-brainer. The point is so obvious that's it hardly seems worth your time to read it or mine to write it. I do it anyway because of the one notable circumstance where it doesn't hold true....when the person we speak of is God.

In this case, common sense goes straight into the dumpster. When God is spoken of with markedly different attributes, different ways of approach, people do not say 'we're talking two different God's here.' Nope. Rather, it's the same God, we just approach him differently and think of him differently. Try doing that in conversation the next time Bob Brown is brought up.  Just try it. Insist that the fat bearded Bob Brown your neighbor knows is the identical squirrely little twirp of a Bob Brown you're speaking of, and that you both just approach him in different ways. Take note of how quickly you're written off as a dope.

Admittedly, it's not quite that simple. Trouble is, when we speak of God, everyone likes to assume that their God is the Big One, the One who is All-Powerful, the One who truly merits the capital 'G' in God, and not just an uncapitalized 'g', the same letter that is used to start unsavory words like 'garbage' or 'grunge.' I mean, no one wants to be stuck worshiping some low class loser of a god, and no one will admit to it. So it's not exactly the same as discussing Bob Brown, a name everyone knows might belong to a prince or a pig.

But it's close enough. After all, in Bible times, different nations worshiped different gods, and they all thought their Guy was the Big One. Note the first panel of that Charlie Brown strip; the roster of Gods back then included Mithra, Horus, Hercules, Zeus, and many others, as any Bible reader knows. Furthermore, it was understood that different gods had different attributes. When the fighting Israelites mopped up the hills with the Syrians, the latter figured it was due to Jehovah being a God of mountains. “Let's try 'em again on the flat lands,” they said. Alas, Jehovah turned out to be a God of the low plains as well. (1 Kings 20:23-25)

I'll take the old way of thinking any day. Different peoples worship different gods who have different attributes. The God of the Evangelicals, for instance, is a god of Football. I don't know how you can conclude any differently if you've watched Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos this season. Time and again, Tebow's quarterbacked his team to cliffhanger come-from-behind wins. Each time (and many times in between) he drops to one knee to thank Jesus. They say it's a verb now: 'tebowing.' Nobody, but nobody, 'praises the Lord' more on the football field than does Tebow. Is the Lord really honored that way?





ImagesCA1Q31K4ImagesCAM9XC8S"When I saw him scoring, [the player who caught his 80 yard pass, clinching a 29-23 win over the Steelers, making for the quickest ending (11 seconds) to an overtime game in NFL history.] first of all, I just thought, 'Thank you, Lord,' '' Tebow said. "Then, I was running pretty fast, chasing him - Like I can catch up to D.T! Then I just jumped into the stands, first time I've done that. That was fun. Then, got on a knee and thanked the Lord again and tried to celebrate with my teammates and the fans."

The media eats all this up. ImagesCAP7G2RQThey love it. They take it all just as Tim means it, as a Feather in God's Cap, genuine praise for the Football God. After every punishing play (that goes well) he drops to his knee to praise the Lord.  All this in front of tens of thousands of fans. And the Evangelicals go nuts! “Players have been pointing to heaven when they score and joining in post-game prayer circles for more than a decade. And every time the limelight lands on a prayer moment, evangelicals are delighted,” says Tom Krattenmaker, author of Onward Christian Athletes. They're not embarrassed to be thus trivializing God.....they're delighted!

The guy wears John 3:16 painted on his eyelids, for crying out loud, as do many players. It's his favorite scripture: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son....” A game or two before, he actually threw for 316 yards, and you should have heard the swooning and ecstasy. Evangelical fans, loudly thanking God for each and every spectacular play, have John 3:16 painted on their bare chests! Just once I'd like to see some player sporting Matt 6:5 on his eyelashes:

“when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen...”

Man, this stuff is offensive! How can anyone stand it? God is disinclined to do much about injustice, depravity and mayhem worldwide....all those things go unchecked....but he never misses a game, eagerly tweaking his favorite players on this team or that! How dare the Evangelicals link God with something so trivial! How dare they! Lemme tell you, the enemies of God are not to be found among the atheists. They're to be found among those who claim to be his friends. The only way I can keep from hurling my cookies on this is to point out that these guys are not worshiping Jehovah God at all, nor even his son Jesus. They are worshiping the god of Football.

And don't think I'm writing this way because I'm jealous over the attention Evangelicals are getting. Pulleeese! I'm not! Absolutely not! No! Beyond any ques.....oh, alright, I AM! I mean, c'mon! First it's the new cool don't-ya-love-me Mormons, now this for the Evangelicals. And what do we have?! Tracts featuring furry cute animals to hand out Sunday afternoon, knocking on doors, interrupting folks doing homage to the Football God! Give us something, please, so we can show that we're cool, too!2011 3 27 san diego 356 Even if it's Segways on which to ride house to house. That would work. I mean, we don't have to abandon the ministry totally, like everyone else does. We just have to take it into the 21rst century.

And please, please, please, don't think I have anything against football. I do not. Though, truth be told, it is sort of competitive, um...not to mention violent, two traits that can't rank it too highly on God's approval list. I suspect that, at best, God just mildly tolerates the game and those who watch it, reckoning it as just one more run-of-the-mill human foible. At any rate, I don't investigate too deeply, for fear that His disapproval may be stronger, and then I wouldn't be able to watch any more games, which I seldom do anyway, but why cut off your options?

It may even be that my only luke-warm interest in football stems, not from any latent righteousness on my part, but merely from my proximity to the nearby Buffalo Bills, our geographically closest NFL team. The God of Football has not been kind to the Bills for many many has a way of cooling one's ardor. I don't know why He doesn't Treat them better. They also have players who pray to him. Like when ImagesCAAGI35WStevie Johnson dropped the game-winning pass in his team's was a perfect pass, and it just flew through his fingers. So he prayed to God that evening, using Twitter:

"I PRAISE YOU 24/7!!!!!!" the 24-year-old tweeted. "AND THIS HOW YOU DO ME!!!!! YOU EXPECT ME TO LEARN FROM THIS??? HOW???!!! ILL NEVER FORGET THIS!! EVER!!! THX THO..."

That's the trouble with being the Football god. You get praises from your worshipers on the winning team. But those on the losing team cuss you out something fierce.



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Tom Irregardless and Me    No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash 

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Jim Boeheim and Joe Paterno

By now, Joe Paterno must be down at the community center, spending his days over hands of euchre and cups of coffee with the other geezers. A month ago he was head coach of the Penn State Nittany Lions, but no more. His downfall was sudden and spectacular. I thought he got a raw deal and said so last post.

Having got that off my chest, I was prepared to move on. You don't win them all, and when you lose, do it graciously. Don't go beating a pet peeve into the ground, as though you have no life of your own. Besides, it's not as though I can't see the other side of the argument. I can. So I'm turning my attention to less sordid things, so as to get this blog back on its normal lofty plain, when along comes another salvo in Rochester's home-town paper, the Democrat and Chronicle, that drags me into it all over again!


Now, you must recall that JoePa fulfilled his legal obligation, reporting a child abuse allegation to his superiors. No one argues that point. But second-guessers came along to assert that he should have gone beyond what law required.....forget the superiors, he should have gone himself to the cops. Okay. Perhaps. He himself, with the wisdom of hindsight, which all of us have in spades, has said he wished he'd done more. So naturally, I assumed that reporting compliance for those with legal obligation must be close to 100% percent. Doesn't that make sense? Surely, compliance must be well nigh universal in order for pundits to so readily broaden the reporting net to include those with “moral” obligation, as they did with Joe. Was I ever wrong! Says the D&C article:

“….it's a mistake to think that the failure of Penn State authorities to report the abuse is a rarity....Studies over the past two decades nationally have consistently shown that nearly two-thirds of professionals who are required to report all cases of suspected abuse fail to do so....."I think that we fail miserably in mandated reporting," said Monroe County Assistant District Attorney Kristina Karle...”

Two thirds!! Two thirds of those required to report suspected abuse to police don't do it! So how is it that Joe Paterno, who was not required to report to police, yet did report to his is it that he gets fired?! I tell you, this is so arbitrary....this so closely resembles a witch hunt, that you just have to cry foul. I suppose a witch hunt is okay if you actually catch witches, but the two thirds who should be fired.....if fired is the agreed-upon penalty....have they all been fired? I don't think so.

Further confounding my best intentions to put this subject behind me is that it started up all over again, with another coach from another college, much closer to home. Syracuse! Only 90 miles east of where I live. I've been to Syracuse many times, usually when I was on my way to somewhere else. There, two stepbrothers have just accused a Syracuse Orangemen Assistant Coach of molestation. To my knowledge, no one's saying [yet] that longtime Head Coach Jim Boeheim knew or should have known about it. But, alas, his initial response was (not surprisingly) to defend his longtime associate, calling the accusations “a bunch of a thousand lies” (one of the boys' own father said so, too) motivated by a grab for money.

That was a mistake. For an ESPN tape has surfaced of a phone call made years ago by the assistant coach's wife to one of the parties saying her husband does indeed “need help” and “has issues.” In the light of some substance to the charge, Boeheim has quickly retracted: "What is most important is that this matter be fully investigated and that anyone with information be supported to come forward so that the truth can be found. I deeply regret any statements I made that might have inhibited that from occurring or been insensitive to victims of abuse."

It may be too late. For one brief moment, Coach Boeheim failed to assume that his long-time associate accused of child abuse was automatically guilty, by mere reason of the allegation. He reacted emotionally. Mike Paul, a New York based “crisis consultant” has predicted he is “toast.”  “I believe Boeheim has an attitude problem the same way Joe Paterno had an attitude problem, where they are saying: 'This is my program. I built it. You won't say anything negative about me, my coaches and my game.'”

What is it with these characters, so ready to assign an “attitude problem” to anyone who has built something? It just burns me up when people assume, completely without evidence, that anyone who has ever worked with a molester, guys like Boeheim or Paterno, must somehow be complicit, that they must wink and nod and say “ah, well, that's just Bernie doing his thing. But who cares? I've got a program to run, and no one's going to say anything bad about it!” There's a mentality there that I just can't fathom. I swear, I'm an old dinosaur, getting older all the time, completely out of touch. Still, as the dust begins to settle, less hysterical views can be heard, and here is a blog post examining “Why Joe Paterno should sue for libel and journalists should lose their jobs.” Yeah! (but they won't)


They're horrible people, just like Romulus said, those who would molest children. You want to catch them and put them away, perhaps for life if the offense is serious enough. But it's also the damage they do to those who legitimately work with young people....coaches and teachers and counselors and pediatricians and so forth. All these folks come under suspicion whenever a pervert is nabbed. What's their real motive for choosing their line of work, people wonder. It's as if molestation is the only reason anyone would want to work with the young.

For example, a former coach of youth sports, Bob Cook (who, not to misrepresent him, is critical of JoePa) says: “The most upsetting thing about many child-protection rules is they assume any adult is capable of doing something bad. If you think of yourself as a good person, and the people around you as good people, you can’t help but be taken aback. You can’t help but think a wall has been put between yourself, the children you coach, and the families you deal with. It’s a wall that seems patently ridiculous when, in the case of the Catholics involved in my Virtus meeting, were tight-knit, south side Chicago parishes where families had known each other for generations.”

You know, the depravity of child sexual predators is enough to catapult efforts to catch them into a national crusade. I understand that. But I also think the intense focus stems from it being the one crime that people can get their heads around. And do something about! “We may not be able to stop terrorism,” they say, “or economic ruin, or hunger, or global warming, or natural disasters, God...we can stop perverts molesting our kids!” But, in fact, they can't even do that. Two thirds of those required by law to report allegations don't.

Why don't they? Well, I'd guess it's because one wants to be sure a charge has real substance before turning a colleague, a patient, or friend, over to the police, who are apt to descend upon that one's house with TV cameras and reporters and make that one's life a living hell. Now, if the allegation turns out to be true, few will care, but if it is not true, it's a little hard ever to look that person in the eye again. The media retraction will be a little tiny footnote somewhere, which nobody will won't be a screaming headline, as was the allegation.

That's what that D&C article identified as the reason: the two thirds fail because “they are uncertain of whether abuse occurred, are fearful of making false accusations, or are unsure of their obligation.” In fact, that is why ESPN, who sat on their tape for eight years, despite media readiness to point fingers at anyone else who would hold back, kept their own mouths shut: they did not "report the contents of the tape, because no one else would corroborate his story."

Twenty years into the war against pedophiles, they still keep popping up everywhere. Have they always been around, or does today's culture spawn them? Or both?


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JoePa Gets Fired

You watch. Now that they've canned Joe Paterno, they'll pull the statue down at Penn State. And once they do, moralizing media folk will up and stomp all over it, just like the Iraqis did to Saddam Hussein.



What is it that rankles me about Penn State firing the 84 year old Nittany Lions head coach? Why should it even register? I don't know anything about college football, and had you asked me a month ago who Joe Paterno is, I would have drawn a blank. That is, until he became national villain of the week....the top, if not the only, news story for that short time. Then everybody knew who he was, even me.

It was Gunsmoke's Matt Dillon, believe it or not, who put this all into focus for me. ME TV runs that old show locally for the benefit of those steadily closing in on geezerhood... guys like me. A recent episode features a “strict, but honest” agent from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, who has stirred up all kinds of mischief toward local Indians. At show's end, however, he has an epiphany. Why... he's been wrong all along....the Indians are in the right! Full of remorse, he tells Marshall Matt Dillon that he'll tender his resignation to the Bureau tomorrow. But Matt replies something like.....get this....."I don't think that will be necessary. It takes a big man to admit he was wrong, and it looks to me that you're just the right man for this job.”

That would never happen today. Back when that show was filmed you could blunder for the longest time, yet be redeemed in a second by heartfelt repentance. Today it's the exact opposite. You can serve nobly for the longest time, yet be trashed without redemption for a single misstep. Isn't that why nobody knows anything today? One mistake in word or deed, and it's “off with his head!” leaving only inexperienced clods running the show.

Now, Joe Paterno's decades-long performance as Penn State's head coach has been impeccable, without blemish. Nobody says otherwise. In a world routinely rocked by scandal and exploitation, he's kept his program clean. A few excerpts on the man, from the website

"He's putting together this winning program, but meanwhile he's teaching 17-, 18-, 19-year olds how not to screw their lives up, how important education is, how important it is to have social acumen," All-America linebacker Greg Buttle told the San Antonio Express-News in 2007.Joe_Paterno_Sideline_PSU-Illinois_2006

Obviously not a person of misplaced priorities, Paterno always has concentrated on seeing that his student-athletes attend class, devote the proper time to studies and graduate with a meaningful degree. He often has said he measures team success not by athletic prowess but by the number of productive citizens who make a contribution to society.

He is, simply put, the most successful coach in the history of college football -- a fact that was validated during the 2001 season when he moved past Paul "Bear" Bryant to become the leader in career wins by a major college coach. He also is one of the most admired figures in college athletics, an acknowledged icon whose influence extends well beyond the white chalk lines of the football field.

In an exceptional display of generosity and affection for Penn State, Paterno; his wife, Sue, and their five children announced a contribution of $3.5 million to the University in 1998, bringing Paterno's lifetime giving total to more than $4 million. The gift was believed to be, Penn State Vice President for Development Rod Kirsch said, "the most generous ever made by a collegiate coach and his family to a university.


Okay. Got it? He's a good guy. A role model. A name you could fling back at smart-alecks when they tell you smugly that “nice guys always finish last.” What could possibly cause a man like this to be sacked in disgrace?

Joe's sin is that he heard an allegation of child sexual abuse nine years ago and reported it to his bosses, as he was legally obligated to do. But now, nine years later, the report appears to be true. An assistant coach running a separate private charity is accused of abusing seven children....maybe more. As though Joe should have foreseen this, the charge is made: why didn't he do more? Why didn't he go straight to the police with the allegation, Surely.....hang whatever the law says.....going just to his bosses was not enough!

Today in the United States, tracking down pedophiles has become a national obsession, if not hysteria. They're not easy to track. Pedophiles don't drool or act perverted. They fit right in with respectable society. And they are seemingly everywhere. Now one has been found right among Penn State's own staff. So Joe is out. He should have known, he should have acted, he should have gone beyond the law, so the feeling goes.

What of his sterling record? USA Today calls him a “man who set the standard for ethical behavior in the tawdry world of college football,” and  “he kept the program's reputation clean — remarkably so for a program that made its home in the national ranking” for all of his 46 year tenure. Doesn't mean a thing.

What of his remorse? "This is a tragedy," he's said. "It is one of the great sorrows of my life. With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more." Doesn't cut it, Joe. This is not a Matt Dillon Gunsmoke world. This is a new “gotcha” world, where folks delight in taking down public figures.

What of loyalty for past service? Not a bit of it. Tolerance for human error or weakness? Nope.

 What of this verse? Doesn't it apply somehow: "Why, then, do you look at the straw in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the rafter in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Allow me to extract the straw from your eye’; when, look! a rafter is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First extract the rafter from your own eye, and then you will see clearly how to extract the straw from your brother’s eye."  (Matt 7:3-5)  No, it doesn't apply. Not anymore. People do nothing but point fingers today, totally ignoring (as everyone's mother used to say) that when you point a finger, three fingers are pointing back at you.

When news broke that Joe had been fired, those who knew him best, those who'd been most positively influenced by his lifelong integrity...namely, the Penn State student body....responded in a quite predictable way: they rioted. Mobs of kids took to the streets shouting “We want Joe!” They pulled down lampposts. They overturned a TV truck, thinking (probably correctly) that it represented those hoping to turn local events into a national circus. It took cops in riot gear to send everyone home.


Now, the other side of the coin is the ongoing battle to stamp out child abuse. And don't get me wrong. It's a worthy battle. No one's saying that those who molest children ought not be punished. No one's saying that those legally obligated to report allegations ought not be called to account if they fail to do it. Joe acquits himself well here. His flaw is not legal, for he did everything legally required. His flaw is said to be “moral,” since the legal answer didn't take the alleged pedophile out of circulation. Moreover you run a huge risk defending anyone who's perceived to have fallen short in any way in the fight against child sexual abuse. “So you approve of child sexual abuse yourself, do you, Sheepandgoats?” they'll say. “Are you also a pervert?” Or, what about the people you hang out with? Do they approve of perverts?” I tell you, it's risky. The media certainly took no such risks. They scolded Joe at every turn, overlooking his irreproachable career, overlooking the three fingers pointing back at themselves.

But there's a reason you turn a “moral” obligation into a legal one. It's because the “moral” course to take is often highly subjective. People don't reach identical conclusions. Harping on one's “moral” obligation allows for Monday morning quarterbacks to attribute motives...invariably bad ones....though they know nothing of the actual circumstances. All Joe did was fail to relate an inspecific allegation directly to the police. I don't like to assume that when someone does that it betrays that they don't give a hoot about protecting kids. After all, people routinely ignore warnings when their own lives are at stake...evacuation orders in the face of impending natural disaster, for instance. God help us if we someday decide automatically notifying police is the gold standard in other arenas of life, say in the event of a traffic accident. It won't be enough to assume one of the ten cars already stopped will have called 911. You'll also have to stop and do it yourself, or else fail your “moral” obligation and have your license revoked.

Anyone my age remembers when you never ever heard of child sexual abuse, and thus assumed it didn't happen. And how within ten years, proven allegations had vaulted it to chief national evil, eclipsing any other wrongdoing. I mean, it took a staggeringly short time to go from unheard of to #1. Now, I don't disparage it's newly revised status...I really don't, but people don't turn on a dime. And the older the person is, the more time the pivot takes. I can readily picture Joe saying “Look, I'm not a pervert. I don't like perverts. I don't hang out with perverts. I never knew there were many perverts. And yet now all of us are on “pervert alert,” with everybody under suspicion!” Now, as it turns out, we are on pervert alert here, but it takes an 84 year old awhile to get his head around it. For crying out loud, Joe remembers (as do I) when you swam nude in the YMCA pool, boys and men alike, with no thought of impropriety whatsoever. A letter (11/16/11) to USA Today states: I'm sure my father would have done exactly as Paterno did [being a product of his time], notifying only his superiors, and he also probably would be as dumbfounded about the outcome of events as Paterno might be.” Yep. Same with my dad.

The times they are a changing, and you'd better keep up. That's Paterno's real sin: being a relic of the past. Seething with moral outrage, USA Today asks searing (in their opinion) questions, such as “Why didn't Paterno notify law enforcement of the 2002 shower-room incident? Was he protecting his saintly image as "JoePa"...." [No you moralizing idiots! If he was protecting his saintly image, he would have reported it, for nothing is more saintly these days then turning in a molester. And he did turn him in, so he likely thought, by relating it to the ones with legal responsibility.]

The newspaper continues: "Or was he blinded by a 30-year friendship with Sandusky and unable to believe he could do such a thing?” Notice here how friendship is portrayed as a flaw, as if life would be so much better if we dropped that antiquated custom and treated everyone as a suspect. Look, sometimes friendship can blind one to the faults of another, perhaps it did so in this case, but it will be a sad [though predictable] day if we fail to cut a person slack for that shortcoming.

But the thinking that prevails today is expressed in another letter (also 11/16/11) to USA Today: “I find it heartbreaking that those college kids reacted to finding out that their hero inadequately addressed allegations of child abuse by rioting in support of him instead of rising up against him. [rising up against him! Why not also lynch him?] As a base human reaction, that is disgusting.” Another source says that, instead of defending Joe, they should have been aghast for the seven victims. Yes, that's how people think today.

But it's just possible that those students, the ones who knew Joe best, realized 1) that Joe's role in the abuse was zero, and his role otherwise, if he even had one, was very limited, 2) that he apologized sincerely, 3) that he has four and a half decades of sterling service to his credit, plus 4) he's given millions of dollars to both university and community in his lifetime, 5) that tens of thousands of people die each day, butchered or starved through human depravity, with no one at all held accountable. And perhaps even 6) that they themselves will graduate tens of thousands of dollars in debt with few job prospects in sight, victims of a worldwide fraud, also with no one being held accountable, fraud aided and abetted by today's leaders. In other words, those seven victims, bad as the crimes against them are, are hardly the only ones victimized by human wickedness, so as to be the undisputed focus of national attention.


Read ‘Tom Irregardless and Me.’    30% free preview

Starting with Prince, a fierce and frolicking defense of Jehovah’s Witnesses. A riotous romp through their way of life. “We have become a theatrical spectacle in the world, and to angels and to men,” the Bible verse says. That being the case, let’s give them some theater! Let’s skewer the liars who slander the Christ! Let’s pull down the house on the axis lords! Let the seed-pickers unite!



Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’