By G. W. Abersold Ph.D.
Thanksgiving Day, November 27, 2014, is in many respects the National Holiday of the United States. We worship it with adoration and reverence.
It is the essence of our religion. Our icons are the turkey and football-both college and the NFL. We eat the turkey and all of its trimmings. Then we collapse in our pews (the couch or easy chair) and argue the subtle points of football. The spirit of Thanksgiving was not always so pagan. The three great monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Mohamedism, all have their special days of worship. Christmas and Easter; Hanukah, and Yom Kippur; Ramadan. Interesting enough, thanksgiving-in its purest form is the basic expression of devotion of all three. Read the book of Psalms, which all three religions accept. Thanksgiving to God is the theme of most of the Psalms.
So, it was quite natural for the Pilgrims to celebrate with thanksgiving to God on December, 1621, for His blessings. They had survived their first winter and harvest. However, where and when the first Thanksgiving was held in the United States is open for debate. St. Augustine, Florida declares it was on September 8, 1565 in their city.
Many historians say it was in Virginia and not in Plymouth. As early as 1607. It is recorded in the founding charter in Charles City, Virginia that a day of Thanksgiving was held in 1619. However, December of 1621 is generally accepted as the time of the first day of Thanksgiving in the U.S.A.
In 1789 George Washington proclaimed a national Day of Thanksgiving on November 26. Abraham Lincoln did the same for the last Thursday of November in 1863.
In 1939 President F. D. Roosevelt proclaimed a national day on the fourth Thursday of November. Every President since then has followed this tradition.
Ben Johnson, the great English essayist, is reported as saying, “Gratitude is seldom found among most people.” Seemingly, the more independent we become and the more self-sufficient we become, the less likely we are to acknowledge a spirit of gratitude. Which always precedes thanksgiving.
As great as Mark Twain became, he was the exception. At the top of his popularity, he was paid between three and five dollars for each word he wrote. A fan wrote him a letter requesting his (Twain’s) favorite word. He included a five dollar bill. In his most inimitable way, Twain sent back one word-THANKS.
Remember the story of Robert Stroud, the Birdman of Alcatraz? He was a vicious, resentful, morose killer. He spent fifty of his seventy years incarcerated in prison.
However, he became a well-known author and rehabilitated his life. He became an authority on birds. Especially what caused their sickness and death. Reportedly, his change began when a sparrow flew into his cell and was ill. He cared for it and it became well. He then did something unusual for him. He asked a guard for help.
The jailor was at first resentful but then relented and gave him a small box that Stroud had asked for. Then came his response, “Thanks.” The first expression of gratitude.
Ultimately gratitude is a spiritual expression. Most Christians are aware of the word “Eucharist.” It is the word used for the Sacrament of Holy Communion and The Lord’s Supper. Its meaning in Greek is “Thanksgiving.” The celebration of the Holy Eucharist was the first Sacrament of the Christian faith.
Karl Barth, the great Swiss theologian of the last century, said it this way, “Gratitude is the only appropriate response any of us can make to God.”
Helen Keller said, “I never feel so alive as when I take time to say, “Thank you.”
Dale Carnegie stated that, “Gratitude should be expressed but not expected. Thankfulness is a key. It unlocks so many things that were closed, from frozen relationships to harden hearts.”
However you spend Thanksgiving Day this year, I urge you to include time to express gratitude to God.
Amen. Selah. So be it.
Depression is Universal
By G. W. Abersold Ph.D.
Depression is an illness that plagues millions of people in our country and around the world. Medication to alleviate its symptoms runs into the billions of dollars every year.
Thousands of hours are spent each week with clients seeking help. It is estimated there are 39,000 suicides each year in the USA, most of them involving some aspect of depression.
Mental depression is a part of humans without discrimination. Men and women, young and old, black, brown, yellow and white, rich and poor, educated and uneducated.
In other words, depression is universal. And it is ageless in its universality. For example, a unique account is recorded in the Bible, I Kings chapters 18 and 19. It occurred about 3000 years ago when Ahab was king and Jezebel was queen of Israel.
Elijah was a prophet and was in conflict with Ahab, Jezebel and the priests of Baal. The climax comes about when Elijah slaughters the priests. Then Jezebel takes over and threatens to kill Elijah. He runs for his life.
After several hours, he stops and exhausted, collapses under a juniper tree. After a good night’s rest, he awakens and God has a sumptuous meal waiting for him.
After running some more he arrives at a cave, takes another nap and eats another meal.
He is in deep depression. He’s lonely, afraid of Jezebel, feels that he is the only one serving God, and without friends.
God speaks to him and shows Elijah 7000 men to combat Ahab. He assures Elijah he is not alone and he is to anoint Elisha to assist him. Jezebel is thrown to the dogs and eventually Elijah goes to heaven in a whirlwind.
Elijah’s recovery from depression is good therapy. 1) Rest and a good sleep. 2) A satisfying meal and more rest. 3) Encouragement from friends. 4) Dependence on the Power (God) beyond himself.
Serious bouts of depression have been experienced by many famous people. Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Ludwig Von Beethoven, Vincent Van Gogh, Isaac Newton, Brooke Shields, Jane Pauley, Terry Bradshaw, Ernest Hemingway, Johnny Depp, Robert Downey, Jr., Mark Twain, Dick Cavett and plus hundreds of others.
In This Week, national magazine, there is a headline, “Robin Williams: Depression’s Deadly Grip.” So it was and is.
Michael Friedman, writing about Williams for CNN, said, “He seemed to have it all, talent, fame, fortune, adoration of millions.” Then he wrote an illuminating comment. “Depression does not discriminate, cannot be bargained with, and shows no mercy.”
There is a minimal depressive state that is often ignored. Some call it “the blues,” others call it “feeling down,” others refer to it as “sadness.” Men particularly don’t understand when women describe themselves as suffering from PMS.
Medication or therapy is seldom necessary. The story of Elijah is more appropriate; a good night’s sleep, or a good meal or meeting with a good friend.
One final admonition about depression. David Weigel, columnist recently wrote, “If you’ve never suffered from depression you really can’t fathom how crushing it can be.”
The symptoms are often self-doubt, self-loathing, fears of failure and abandonment. “It’s a brutal disease that hijacks your mind and your life.”
It is vitally important for loved ones and friends of persons that suffer from depression, that victims of depression need understanding, compassion and assurance. A basic diagnosis is victims almost inevitably have a sense of worthlessness.
Amen. Selah. So be it.
Change demands decisions
By G. W. Abersold Ph.D.
I never cease to be amazed at Pope Francis’ liberal and concise statements. Recently in response to criticism from conservative Bishops of the Roman Catholic Church, he said, “GOD IS NOT AFRAID OF CHANGE.” The Bishops had objected to his “suggesting that the church accept gay and divorced Catholics back into the fold; and perhaps even invite them to receive communion.” This is obviously a revolutionary agenda. (the above from This Week-10/31/14)
I am reminded of the ancient argument among Greek philosophers regarding the most basic element in life. Some philosophers advocated fire; others were in favor of wind; water was a favorite choice of many; but the favorite, by Herodotus, was change.
In fact, he declared the inevitability of change. For several years I had a statement by my chair made by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the great philosopher. “We must always change renew, rejuvenate ourselves; otherwise we harden and die.”
Goethe implies that a person can avoid change and be the worst off. A national university has an interesting motto. “The mind is a terrible thing to waste.”
Wasting a mind, or talents or one’s health is terrible. Wasting opportunities are also a terrible waste. Change demands decisions.
There are many conditions that inhibit change. There is one that is extremely important. I have a plaque on the wall, beside the front door. A friend of mine gave it to me several years ago.
It reads: “Insight is the beginning of change.” Awareness, thoughtfulness and evaluation all contribute to having insight.
Once we gain insight, it is a powerful motivating factor for change. In fact, there cannot be a change in values and a change in behavior of any kind without it. Change demands decisions.
Neither meaning nor insights are automatically given to us. Usually both are prompted by adversity, family intervention, handicaps, failures of any kind, destructive habits, and physical defects, etc.
For example, Stevie Wonder. He has received 22 Grammy awards over his 51 year music career. He has been blind since birth. He could have chosen to sit on a sidewalk, cup in hand, begging.
At an early age, call it a brainstorm or insight, he began to tinker with the piano, then the harmonica, then drums and finally the bass. He began to play them and sing and then write songs.
Today he is truly an icon. He has realized and developed his potential. Stevie Wonder changed his life form poverty to plenty. From an unknown to world-wide acclaim. This father of seven; has not only changed himself but also changed the lives of others.
Richard Branson is one of my favorites. His story is remarkable.
He is 64 years old-born on July 18, 1950. He is the 4th richest person in England. Queen Elizabeth is number one. Branson is dyslexic and did so poorly in school he dropped out at age 16. His teachers and authority figures, “assumed he wouldn’t go very far in life.”
But Richard defied the odds. He changed. It dawned on him-an insight-that he possessed people skills. He knew he had street smarts.
Today he is a billionaire; owning the Virgin Airline, a record company, a mobile phone company, an island in the Caribbean, a space-tourist company. Today the Virgin Group holds more than 200 companies in more than 30 countries. All came about through his insight creating changes.
Change through insight came to Buzz Aldrin, the second man to step on the moon. He suffered from depression and alcoholism.
Ludwig van Beethoven helped shape and change the future of music even though he was totally deaf. He wrote The Ninth Symphony when he was totally deaf.
Oprah Winfrey, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Albert Einstein, Jim Carrey, Moses and above all, Helen Keller changed from being victims to being victors. Insight, they certainly had. CHANGE DEMANDS DECISIONS
Amen. Selah. So be it.
A little more about Boston
By G. W. Abersold Ph.D.
This article is a sequel. One article is not long enough to cover all there is to know about Boston. A second is necessary. Its history alone would take up several books. The attitude of most Bostonians is that their city is the center of the universe. Anything west of it isn’t worth knowing about.
One writer says that “sumus primi,” is the motto of the Boston Latin School and means “We are first,” and it fits Boston like the proverbial glove fits the hand.
First, consider the availability of tours covering Boston and its surroundings. There are several “trolley” companies that cover most historical sites. Tourists can get off, stay as long as they like and catch the next one—usually every 30 minutes.
Such places as Beacon Hill, Boston Commons, Old North Church, U.SS. Constitution, Harvard, MIT, Boston Latin School, many burial places for noted people.
Second, consider the saga of Paul Revere. Believe it or not, he never made it to Concord. He was captured by a British patrol on his way to Concord. He was riding with two other men, but only one of them succeeded in warning the Americans in Concord that the British were coming. And it was not Paul Revere. It was Dr. Samuel Prescott.
Revere became famous because of the poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. It was first published in the January issue of The Atlantic Monthly, in 1861. There are several inaccuracies in Longfellow’s poem. Revere did NOT send the message of “one if by land two if by sea;” he received it. He did not row across the Charles River, he was ROWED there.
Such is history. Paul Revere died in 1818. He was honored in 1995 as a true hero.
What about the Boston Tea Party? It is as much a fantasy as Paul Revere. However, American patriots were upset by rising taxes on tea levied by the British.
But it wasn’t the taxes that irked the American colonists. But rather being taxed without representation. Now get this. What the Americans hated was a TAX CUT. For big business. The Tea Act of 1773 benefited only the British East India Company. The outcome was predictable. The colonists, dressed as Native Indians, boarded the ships and dumped the tea in the harbor.
Education was almost as important to the Pilgrims and Puritans as religion. Within five years of December, 1620—their landing on Plymouth Rock, a law was passed that wherever there were 25 families, they MUST have an elementary school. Wherever there were 50 families, they must have a secondary school. All paid for by local taxes.
No one should ever visit Boston without going to Cape Cod and particularly the city of Plymouth. It is well known for its historical value. While the County in which Plymouth is located has the largest area and a population of 55,000, the town of Plymouth has only a population of 7, 494. Plymouth prides itself in being one of two settlements established in the New World. The other being Jamestown, Virginia; settled in 1607.
The Mayflower left Plymouth, England in September 1620. It is a port on the southern coast of England. I’ve been there and it is a rustic, quaint village.
Little did the 102 passengers know what they were in for. The Summers in Boston and the Concord area are blistering hot. The Winters are cold with winds, ice, snow and rain from December through March. The Fall and Spring are the times to visit.
They disembarked on a rock about 40 miles south of Boston’s city limits today. The rock is smaller today than in 1620 because of tourists breaking off a chunk through the years. Because of that they can now see the rock but not touch it.
The village re-created in the city of Plymouth is a must-visit. The staff is dressed like the original Pilgrims and lectures are conducted. There are 20 miles of trails, plenty of shops, a typical church, antique stores, self-guided tours, museums and tours available to interesting nearby places.
Prior to the Plymouth Colony, 2,000 Wampan Native Americans called the area Patuxet. Also the region was visited twice by European explorers. In 1605 Samuel de Champlain and his ship stopped there and named it Port St. Louis.
A few years later, Captain John Smith from Jamestown, Virginia, stopped there and re-named it New Plymouth. Of the 102 original passengers, 46 died the first Winter. Within 15 years, public schools were started, Harvard was established (1636), a book was published and several villages were built. And, of course, the first Thanksgiving was held.
On March 16, 1621 a most important event took place. An Indian brave named Samoset walked into the settlement and called out, “Welcome” in English.
Later he brought his friend Squanto, who spoke better English. He had been taken to England prior to 1620.
A final personal note. On August 15, 1945, I was at the Boston Commons-which is a must for every tourist. The crowd was immense. Thousands of service men plus hundreds of young ladies and a few civilian men-like me. It was V-J Day. A memorable occasion for all.
Amen. Selah. So be it.
The power of women
By G. W. Abersold Ph.D.
The other day Stella and I visited a local church at their early service. During the minister’s diatribe he said, “God has told me that I am the head of my house.”
I was appalled and disgusted. He probably got his viewpoint from the Apostle Paul who had a bias against women to begin with. There is no evidence in the Bible that he was married. The minister was using the verses from Ephesian 5:22 and 5:23 for his views. “Wives submit yourselves unto your husbands. For the husband is the head of the wife.”
Most objective sociologists will confirm that we live in a matriarchal society. Women rule the roost. Or, behind every successful man, there is a woman-usually his wife. When a man is really the head of his house, he is a bachelor. Of course, a man is usually out front getting credit for family success. Erroneously. Ask any successful man or men who was responsible for their success and about 99% of the time, they will respond, “My mother.”
Ask Bill Clinton, George Bush (father or son), and Jimmy Carter who was responsible for their success and the answers will be: Hillary, Barbara, Rosalyn. Without question.
History gives an accurate account of the role of women. Consider Abraham without Sarah, Isaac without Rebekah, Jacob without Rachel, Samuel without Hannah, David without Bathsheba, Joseph without Mary, Constantine without Helena, Augustine without his mother, Luther, Wesley, Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln without their wives. F. D. Roosevelt without Eleanor. You name a successful man and I’ll name the power behind him-his wife, mother or sister. Unfortunately the role of women in many societies has been relegated to being “barefoot and pregnant.”
It wasn’t until 1920 that women were allowed to vote. World War II was a turning point. They entered the military and industry. Today there are growing numbers of women as CEO’s and key persons in their own businesses.
The recent evidence of spousal abuse by football players is only a fraction of the national picture. History has recorded the fact that the less educated a person, the greater the possibility of abuse. Crime of all kinds is more evident in the poverty section of a city; especially physical abuse.
Education is the key. This is also true when it comes to women being elected to public office. Currently there are 76 women serving in the House of Representatives and 20 women in the Senate. Five of our 50 states have female Governors.
It seems apparent to most observers that a solution to the Congressional grid-lock would be to have more women in both houses. Why? The answer is simple. Women are more prone to compromise and reconciliation and negotiation. They are used to making decisions for the good of the family: In this case, for the good of the country. Above all, women are adaptable and SURVIVORS.
In modern times, the roles of women have greatly expanded. Here are a few examples. Golda Meir became the first female Prime Minister of Israel. Her greatness was obvious. She held this esteemed position from 1969 until 1974. Prior to that she was the Foreign Minister from 1956 to 1965. She left a powerful positive influence on Israel’s destiny.
Dilma Rousseff is the 36th President of Brazil. She has contributed greatly to Brazil’s rise as a financial giant. Angela Merkel has been primarily responsible for the rise of Germany’s influence in Europe. She is the first female Chancellor of Germany. She is also one of the architects of the European Union.
Margaret Thatcher was often called “the Iron Lady.” As Prime Minister of England she saw unprecedented economic prosperity. She was elected in 1979 and severed for eleven years.
The power and influence of Queen Elizabeth should not be minimized. She has been a dominate leader in the world since she became Queen.
Financially women are second to none. Bill Gates and Warren Buffett are the richest, but they became rich only after they married.
Certainly Oprah Winfrey is one of the richest of women or men, but China tops the list with Wu Yajun. Her net worth is 5.7 billion; Oprah is 4th in the world among women. Doris Fisher is 6th; Meg Whitman is 10th; Sara Blakely is 14th; and six of the top 14 are from China.
The women that have made significant contributions to American society are impossible to list. Suffice to say from Rosa Parks to Hillary Clinton.
This list does not include women that are leaders in the fields of Education, Religion, Science, Medicine, Law, Sports, Therapy, on and on. Without question we can assume they are the head of their homes.
Amen. Selah. So be it.
A little place called Boston
By G. W. Abersold Ph.D.
According to scientists of many disciplines (Geologists, astronomers, archaeologists, etc.) the Boston area came into being about 1.8 million years ago. That marked the retreat of the Great Ice Age.
As the glaciers melted, they deposited debris across the north eastern part of North America. The debris formed what would become Beacon Hill and Boston Harbor.
Many thousands of years later, before the Puritans arrived, Native Americans settled in the area that they called Shawmut “land of many waters.” Historians estimate that 100,000 native inhabitants were in the area to welcome the sails of Puritan ships.
The Boston Latin School (1635) and Harvard College (1636) were both started then and are in existence today. Currently Harvard is the richest endowed University in the world-approximately worth 35 billion dollars.
Boston Latin School marked the beginning of public education in the Colonies and of course in the USA. It was supported by taxation. Currently there are 65 colleges in the Boston area. Boston University has the largest enrollment (31,766) with Harvard at 25,690. Second to Harvard in notoriety is M.IT.- Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Boston, today, has a population of 617,594. In many respects Boston is a true melting pot of nationalities. There is an Italian section, a China town, an Irish area, Hispanic section, and African- American area and about every other ethnic priority.
Boston is sports crazy. The Boston Red Sox have longevity. Then there is the New England Patriots, the Boston Bruins and of course, the Boston Celtics. Of course the Boston Marathon has a reputation far beyond Boston.
There is one condition in Boston that needs clarification. It is the streets in and around Boston. The age-old adage about them is simple “Wherever the cows went, streets were built.” Strange as it sounds, it’s pretty well the truth.
In Colonial days Boston was in a three-way trade. Slaves in the Caribbean grew sugarcane; shipped it to Boston, where it was made into rum; that was sent to West Indies to buy more slaves.
Molasses was in abundance and beans were cooked in the syrup. When thousands of Irish came to Boston, they existed on baked beans and Boston became known as “Beantown.”
Boston is known for civic corruption and politicians, from Ben Franklin-who was born there—to Tip O’Neal, John F. Kennedy, his father Joe Kennedy, and the rest of the Kennedy Tribe.
There are several historical towns in and around Boston that are my favorites. Quincy, Cambridge, Lexington and Concord. I recently visited all four of them.
Quincy has a population of 92,271. It is the birthplace of both John Adams and his son John Quincy Adams. Both of them became Presidents. The father was the second President and the son was the sixth.
The town was named after Josiah Quincy. He was a prominent attorney and politically active.
In addition to the Adams, John Hancock was also born in Quincy. He was the President of the Continental Congress. He was a signer of the Declaration of Independence and was reported as saying after signing his name in large letters, “I want the King to see my name without his spectacles.”
Father and son are both buried in the basement of the Unitarian Church. Their home is still standing, surrounded by a large park.
Cambridge has a population of 105,162 residents, with about 50,000 of them students at Harvard and M.I.T. Incidentally during the Revolutionary War, Harvard was moved temporarily from Cambridge to Concord.
Lexington is the city where the shot was fired that was “heard around the world.” There are only 31,394 residents in the city but they are all devout patriots. The first battle of the Revolutionary War was fought here. It is dramatized on the Lexington Battle Green from April through early Fall.
The terrain is hilly with many trees that obviously provided protection for the patriots as they devastated the English.
Concord is an unbelievably picturesque New England village. With a population of only 17,668 residents, Concord gives the appearance of a bland rural community. The Sleepy Hollow Cemetery is well named. It is the burial place for Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Louisa May Alcott, among others that made Concord a haven for literary greats.
These writers caused a renaissance in the 19th century that influenced our country; and still does.
The homes in Concord maintain a New England influence as well as the scenic highways. Of particular importance are Walden Pond and the rebuilt cabin that housed Henry David Thoreau. Along with the Emerson home.
Amen. Selah. So be it.
Great thinkers who challenge our life views
By G. W. Abersold Ph.D.
In a recent column by Gloria Macias Harrison she included three sentences by Gene Roddenberry.
Roddenberry was born on August 19, 1921 and died on October 24, 1991. He was a TV screen writer, producer and futurist. He created the original Star Trek television series plus several more popular series.
He was a bomber pilot in World War II and flew 89 combat missions. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal. Before his writing career, he also flew for Pan Am. In 1949-1956 he was a member of the LA police department.
His writings always included positive references to maximize the years we have. The article by Gloria Macias Harrison includes one of his best.
“If man is to survive, he will have learned to take delight in the essential differences between now and cultures. He will learn that differences in ideas and attitudes are a delight, part of life’s exciting variety, not something to fear.”
I also like this statement by Roddenberry. “A man either accepts life as it happens to him, meets it head-on and licks it, or he turns his back on it and starts to wither away.”
Here is another statement that should challenge all of us. “It is the struggle itself that is most important. We must strive to be more than we are. It does not matter that we will not reach our ultimate goal. The effort itself yields its own reward.”
Henry David Thoreau was born, raised and died in Concord, Massachusetts. He is buried in the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, also in Concord.
He was born on July 12, 1817 and died on May 6, 1862 at age 44. Thoreau attended Harvard University and was a guiding light in the beliefs of Transcendentalism and the New Thought. They advocated individualism, no taxes, concern for the environment and smaller government.
He, along with Emerson, participated in the Freedom Rail for escaping slaves. They both were true Abolitionists.
He is best known for his isolation at Walden’s Pond. He built the cabin on land loaned to him by his mentor, Ralph Waldo Emerson.
While Walden’s Pond is described as a small body of water, today it is a good sized lake. Thoreau’s original cabin is no longer in existence, but its replica is. In it is a bed, a desk, a fireplace, a desk and a bookcase. There is a statue of Thoreau in front of the cabin.
His reason for his decision to live the hermit’s life is clear in his own words. “I went to the woods deliberately, that I might not come to the end of life and find that I had not lived at all.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson was born in 1803 and died in 1882. He was a graduate of Harvard and a prolific writer. A strong influence in the Civil War. He also influenced Thoreau and others in establishing the free thinking of Transcendentalism, or New Thought. The closest thing to it today is Libertarianism; the views of Senator Rand Paul.
He, along with Thoreau, was born, raised and died in Concord. He is also buried in the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery.
He has written many paragraphs that are well worth printing, but the phrase that has stimulated me the most is very short. “God enters every life through a private door.”
So often religious fanatics try to make their experience normative for everyone else. Whatever experiences we have are always unique to us.
William James is considered to be the greatest psychologist ever produced in the USA. His reputation lives on, even today. Born on January 11, 1842, he died on August 21, 1910, at age 68. He is often referred to as the father of American psychology.
James was born into an affluent family. His father encouraged all of his children to get a good education and William studied psychology at Harvard. His brother Henry James became a highly acclaimed American novelist.
Beyond writing extensively on the subject of psychology, he also addressed the subjects of Pragmatism, Conversion, Emotion, Functionalism and the Influence of Psychology.
The two most profound of his statements are about depression and conversion. About depression he stated, “Act the way you want to feel and pretty soon you will be feeling the way you’re acting.”
His definition of conversion is clear and meaningful. “It is the process, gradual or sudden by which a self-hitherto divided, and consciously wrong, inferior and unhappy, becomes unified and consciously right, superior and happy.”
Amen. Selah. So be it.
The Bible misunderstood
By G. W. Abersold Ph.D.
The Bible is, without a doubt, the most misunderstood book ever printed. It is not a scientific book or an accurate historical book, even if some try to make it so.
It does contain some science and some history, but not much. Most of it was written more than 1900 years ago. The writers saw the world as everyone at that time did. The world was flat. Travel was by foot, slow boat or by donkey.
Most people didn’t live beyond forty years. Jesus was an old man at age 33, when he died. Education was limited to a very few.
In my opinion, the biggest misunderstanding is in believing the Bible is humorless, joyless and without laughter. Nothing can be further from the truth.
To prove my point I will site the Bible itself and Elton Trueblood’s book, “The Humor of Christ.”
Laughter is a result not the cause of a humorous event. An absurd event, a ridiculous event, a contradictory event. Or an imaginary humorous event that memory has resurrected from the past.
A case of absurdity is evident in the life of Abraham and Sarah. They were told by an angel they would have a baby. He is 100 and she is 90 years old. The absurdity of such an event causes both to laugh. By the way, they name the baby Isaac; which means laughter.
The Bible doesn’t always reveal the cause of laughter, only that laughter occurred. In Psalm 126:2, it says, “our mouths were filled with laughter.”
Child psychologists tell us that babies laugh between 20-30 times an hours. It is the result of pleasure, happiness and contentment. It is reasonable then to presume that whenever these emotions are present in all instances by all people, laughter will naturally follow.
There are three basic elements, one of which is usually present in humor: absurdity, hyperbole (exaggeration) imagination. Remember the very popular sit-com a few years ago-MR. ED?
It was about a talking horse. Absurd to be sure. But it’s right out of the Bible. Numbers, chapter 19. The Scripture is about Balaam and his donkey. The donkey talks and berates Balaam. A laugher to be sure. Absurd? Absolutely.
Use your imagination about these stories. Noah and the Ark. Bill Cosby made it great with his interpretation. Imagine all the animals defecating. What a mess. Or Jonah living in the stomach of a great fish. Or a kid (David) stoning a giant with a slingshot and then cutting off his head.
There are scores like these in the Bible that are built for laughter.
What about Jesus? In the book, “The Humor of Christ,” written by Elton Trueblood, he laments the “widespread failure to recognize and appreciate the humor of Christ.” He further criticizes the admirers of Jesus as well as his critics in his lament.
It is important to recognize His use of paradox and irony, along with satire in His humor. Jesus’ use of humor was more in the style of Mort Sahl than that of Bob Hope. At times he was very caustic. Trueblood was stimulated to write the book after witnessing his young son crack up laughing. “He laughed because he saw how preposterous it was for a man to be concerned about a speck in another’s eye and ignore the beam in his own eye.”
His son knew the human eye was not big enough for a beam. It was absurd. The same goes for the ridiculous idea of a man going through the eye of a needle.
The “whited sepulchers” jab by Jesus toward the Scribes and Pharisees is extremely humorous. Many of the parables are filled with irony. Trueblood points out the use of hyperbole in many of the miracles: feeding thousands with a boy’s lunch or Peter sinking in the water because he didn’t know where the rocks were.
In my view, a great example that Jesus was often humorous and funny was the attraction of children to Him. He demanded that children be allowed to be close to Him.
Also an interesting Scripture describes Jesus as fraternizing with low lifes. (publicans and sinners) Also His enemies called Him a “wine-bibber.” That’s like making Jesus an alcoholic. Now use your imagination. Whenever a group of men get together, with a few drinks, they swap stories, humorous ones and laugh uproariously.
That’s true in Highland, L.A., New York or Jerusalem. Today, last year or 2000 years ago.
These are but a few samples of Jesus’ use of humor. To display Jesus’ serious side and ignore His humorous side is to ignore a large part of the Gospels.
Amen Selah. So be it.
By G. W. Abersold Ph.D.
For the past decade and a half Iraq has been in the news. Mainly because of the two wars fought with the USA. Evidence now reveals that we wanted their oil.
The reason Washington used was the lie that Saddam Hussein had WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction). Previously the oil industry had been nationalized. After the military victory, that was changed. So that private oil companies-like Halliburton-could own the oil.
The 36 million people in Iraq are basically Muslim. Sixty three percent are Shiites, thirty-four percent are Sunnis and three percent are Christians and Jews. Most of the Christians speak Aramaic, which was the language that Jesus spoke.
There are almost 3 billion Christians in the world today. There are 2.09 billion Muslims. The latter is divided into Sunnis and Shiites. Their schism dates back to the 7th century disagreement over succession after the death of the Prophet Muhammad in 632 A.D.
The Shiites followed the Prophet’s family and the Sunnis honor Abu Bakr a close companion of the Prophet. That holds true today.
Historians call Iraq “the cradle of civilization.” Bible scholars believe the Garden of Eden was in the southern part of the country. Abraham, the father of Judaism, Christianity and Muslim came from the land of Ur, also in Iraq.
Nineveh, made famous by Jonah is in the north. The Bible speaks much of the Babylonians, the Assyrians and the Persians. All three dominated Iraq at one time or another. Israel was wiped out by them in 722 and 582 BCE.
Ten thousand years ago Iraq was called Mesopotamia; which lasted until 334 BCE when it was conquered by Alexander the Great.
The first dominate people of the area were Sumerians. They go back before the Egyptians. They began as a primitive people who were primarily hunters and gatherers.
From them came the very beginning of civilization, including the Hanging Gardens of Babylon-one of the 7 wonders of the world.
Many of history’s greatest developments took place in the Sumerian dynasty. By the year 4000 BCE the people had developed villages and towns and the city of Ur in 3500 BCE. The Sumerians were dominating until 2000 BCE.
They had developed the first writing system, the first code of law (the Code of Hammurabi), farming techniques like crop rotation and had developed a system of mathematics including the use of the “zero.”
They also were the first ones to use a “wheel.” They also developed the hoe, the rake, the shovel. Trade was established with nomadic tribes. They also had a system of irrigation canals and dikes.
They were the first to use copper and bronze; maps and calendars. They built carts, made pottery and were the first people to develop a written language.
Literary experts describe the famous Epic of Gilgamesh as, “a collection of folklore, stories and myths which was the most famous literary achievement to come out of Mesopotamia.”
Many Egyptian, Greek and Jewish stories are based on it. For example the Epic and the Bible have parallel stories: Adam and Eve, Noah, the flood, Tower of Babel, Jonah and Job.
The Sumerians were also the first people to establish schools, writing and an accounting system. They built a system of pyramids, which the Egyptians copied.
Sumerian culture also established monotheism rather than worshiping many gods. They developed the use of iron and were the first to have iron weapons of warfare.
One writer categorically says that the greatest contribution to come out of Mesopotamia was, “the concept of time. They were the first to establish 24 hours in a day, each hour into 60 minutes and each minute into 60 second.”
The bitter fighting in Iraq today is between the Shiites and the Sunnis. They are both Muslim. They are similar to the attitudes between Catholics and Protestants, 100 years ago. Hopefully their differences will be resolved. Amen.
Selah. So be it.
Bennett, Religion, Science
By G. W. Abersold Ph.D.
Tony Bennett is unquestionably one of the greatest singers of all time. He is currently 88 years old. Frank Sinatra referred to Tony as, “The best singer in the business.”
He has sung for ten Presidents. A noted painter, he has three of his paintings in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian Institute. His albums of songs number in the millions.
He was in World War II and participated in the Battle of the Bulge. When he had to kill a young German soldier at close range, it affected him so much he became a committed pacifist.
Bennett has strong beliefs regarding racism. He is an avowed liberal, often marching in favor of civil rights.
In a recent interview he was asked what he considered the greatest issue of today.
His answer involved an incident about himself and Ella Fitzgerald. They were good friends and often their families spent holidays together. He quotes her saying, “Tony, we are all here.”
What she meant, he says in the interview, “We are all here on the same planet. No matter what our race, religion, culture or ethnic background is. We are all humans sharing the same space in the universe.”
He concludes with his affirming his belief is what she said. He continued by saying, “Until we realize it we will never truly reach our goals as human beings.”
Tony Bennett is not only a great singer, he is a great person.
A CHANGE OF EMPHASIS
There is a major conflict between religion and science that has been going on for several hundred years. The issue revolves around the beginning of the universe and more specifically our planet and still more specific—us, you and me. A belief of many fundamentalists Christians endorses the view of Bishop James Ussher (1581-1656) that the first day of creation was October 23, 4004 BCE. Obviously this has been discredited with scientific discoveries.
Science, in general, contends that “chance” is the source of everything. In Christianity there are as many different views as there are denominations. However, the commonality is an acceptance of a Creator, reflected in such phrases as “Intelligent Design: or “Random Designer” or “Theistic Design.”
William Paley was born in 1743 and died in 1805 (62). An Englishman he taught natural theology and philosophy of religion at Christ’s College in Cambridge, England.
His viewpoints are in line with Plato, Galileo, Copernicus and Newton regarding the order and dependability of the universe. He would have endorsed Albert Einstein’s statement in 1954, “I cannot believe that God plays dice with the cosmos.”
All of these men would challenge the view of many scientists and atheists who believe that the universe is the result of CHANCE.
The bottom line is Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”
Back to William Paley. I find his analogy of the watchmaker very credible. A paraphrase will suffice.
Suppose several hundred years ago you had never seen a watch. You were walking through a forest and see your first watch. You’ve never seen one before and have no idea what it is. You pick it up and examine it.
It has a leather case and a small dial. It has a spring and makes a ticking sound. There are two hands on the dial moving in a predictable pattern.
You do not say, this thing is merely the product of pure chance, coming from all over and fitting together to produce structure, symmetry and order. It needs a maker-a creator.
The universe is made up of laws. The speed of light, the Big Bang-13-15 billion years ago, the law of gravity, etc. Neil Armstrong would never have made it to the moon without the predictability of the universe. Not chance.
Using your process of logic and deductive reasoning, you know that to have order there must be a creative mind and a maker. This principle is also applicable to building a house-it need an architect. An airplane needs an engineer; a song needs a composer; a German Chocolate Cake needs a baker. Any creation needs a creator.
The Bible in Genesis 1:1 says it all: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” And I might add, and all within it, including you and me.
Amen. Selah. So be it.
Home is where they know us at our worst and still love us
By G. W. Abersold Ph.D.
There are many events and experiences in life that bring pleasure and joy to us. Being born in this great country should never be discounted.
The freedoms we have provide untold opportunities. Included are the chances to learn, to worship, to work and to have fun.
We who are so fortunate should remember the less fortunate in our thoughts and prayers.
But of all the blessings of life, it seems the most glorious is our homes. Robert Frost expressed it best in his poem, The Death of the Hired Man; “Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they take you in. I should have called it, something you somehow don’t have to deserve it.”
Not to have been born in a caring, loving home is a tragedy beyond expression. However, it can be safely said that family abuse is of epidemic proportion.
Every day the news media gives evidence to that. The causes are as varied as there are instances.
Often the abusers were victims themselves. That’s all they know. Physical abuse. Alcohol is often the trigger. It causes lack of control and undisciplined behavior.
Statistics indicate that economic problems often drive abusers to the use of alcohol.
Psychologically the frustration of not having a way out of problems, particularly financial, will precipitate abusive behavior.
A corollary to abuse is delinquency among children. School teachers report that students are often more rebellious after violence is portrayed on television or in times of war.
The mayhem in sports, movies, video games all contribute to an atmosphere of violence. This is transferred to home abuse.
Emotional and mental abuse is equally devastating as physical abuse. And often more so. It seldom leaves outward scars, only inward. A classic example is the husband who avoids speaking to his wife for days on end, but would be lovey dovey at social events. It leaves the wife a mental and emotional basket case.
You would think that the better the education and the richer the family is, would lessen the instances of abuse. But that is not so. Pressure on the job is the curse. It causes stress that needs to be released, and too often abuse is the way out.
What can be done to defuse the tension in a dysfunctional family? Is termination the only recourse for the responsible members? Of course, in the extreme the authorities should be notified. When worst comes to worst they can protect the victims. And certainly erase the cause for abuse.
Intervention on the part of concerned family members, or a neighbor, a minister, school teacher, a doctor, or a therapist, may alleviate the abuse when the abuser is confronted by the concerned.
Mental illness like bipolar or clinical depression can be helped with medication. Both of these illnesses can lead to family abuse.
Other organizations may be useful like Alcoholics Anonymous and a church. Religious involvement can be an invaluable help in all kinds of abuse. The churches have always been in the reclamation business. Never underestimate their message of redeeming the lost and needy.
Often the victims are seniors that are physically harassed and abused by their children or other relatives. It is a growing social embarrassment. Seniors are also often abused simply by neglect.
Someone has said that all families are dysfunctional in one way or another. That doesn’t negate the potential for change that makes families functional.
William Barclay was one of the greatest Bible scholars of all times. He wrote over 50 books. In one of them, he said, “Home is the place where you don’t need to be brave. Home is the place where they know us at our worst and still love us. I believe in home—I believe in marriage—I believe in the family, for I could not have lived without them.” ME TOO.
Amen. Selah. So be it.
A little bit about Sam Snead
By G. W. Abersold Ph.D.
To me, the game of golf is the most fascinating sport there is. It combines the maximum of physical skill and a great amount of mental planning, plus creative thinking. It is a combination of brains and brawn.
My favorite senior pro golfers are Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino, and Tom Watson, followed by Fred Couples and Phil Mickleson.
Among the younger players today, I like Rory, Bubba, Adam, Tiger and Sergio. But my all-time favorite is SAM SNEAD. In my mind he was head and shoulders above all the other golfers in his time or any other time.
Samuel Jackson Snead was born on May 27, 1912 in a small town-Ashwood, Virginia. He died on May 23, 2002-4 days before his 90th birthday. He died of a stroke.
Sam’s wife, (Audrey Kames) and he were married in 1940. She died in 1990. They had two sons, Sam Jr. and Terrence. They also had two grandsons.
Sam was always active in sports. During high school, playing football, basketball and running track. In fact, he ran the 100 yard dash in 10 seconds flat. He was in great health most of his life: 5 feet 11 inches tall and weighing an average of 185 pounds. In his eighties Sam was so limber he could touch the top of the average door jam with his foot.
He was the youngest of five brothers and was inspired to play golf by his oldest sibling. Sam made his first clubs from saplings from the trees. He walked the course in his bare feet and would practice hitting rocks.
In fact, when he was having problems with his game, he would often take off his shoes and sox. In one of his Master’s win, that’s what he did. He went barefoot. And won the tournament.
Many golfing authorities see him and Ben Hogan as the two greatest golfers of all time. The interesting thing about their competition, Sam beat Ben every time they had a playoff.
While his contemporaries do agree he was great, they also agree that he was cantankerous. He was strong willed and always voiced his opinions. He was also humorous.
Sam always had a joke and most of the time they were suggestive or downright dirty. Two of my favorite humorous stories, that are not dirty, are about two other golfers.
The first one is about Ben Hogan. Sam challenged the view that Hogan never talked. Sam said, “That’s not true. He always talks to me. He says, ‘Sam, you’re away’.” That means Hogan was closer to the hole than Sam.
I really love this one. It concerns a young (25) golfer that was pretty good. He and Sam were playing on a good course-with a side bet-and they came to a 450 yard, dogleg to the right, about 250 yards from the tee. At the turn there was a group of trees about 70 feet tall, and they were out of bounds.
Sam says to the young golfer “When I was your age I could hit the ball over those trees onto the green.” Not to be outdone, the golfer tried it himself and it landed right in the middle of the out-of bound trees.
Sam laughed uproariously. “Of course, when I was your age those trees were only 10 feet tall.” Sam was 70 years old at the time.
Sam became famous for using the word “yipps,” when his putting was bad. It was the shakes. So he started putting like someone playing croquet, straddling the ball. Unfortunately the PGA outlawed the technic.
He never wore a golf cap. Only a broad brimmed hat. He never took it off because his hair was gone. Did you know he served in the U.S. Navy in World War II?
Perhaps you are questioning my view that he was the greatest golfer ever. I back up my opinion with these statistics.
He played professionally from 1934 until he retired in 1987. A total of 53 years. In that period of time he won 82 PGA sponsored tournaments. He was the winner of 162 professional tournaments. No one is even close to the latter number. Only Tiger may win more PGA tournaments.
For several years he was the PGA’s leading money winner. It should be remembered that he competed the highest ranked players for 50 plus years like Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus.
A famous statement of his describes him to a tee. “Keep close count of your nickels and dimes, stay away from whiskey and never concede a putt.” Finally, Sam Snead was a great golfer and a penny-pinching hillbilly from the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Amen. Selah. So Be It.
Living life to the fullest
By G. W. Abersold Ph.D.
Over the past 34 years I have written hundreds of articles for various newspapers. The subjects have been eclectic. However, I’ve focused more often on seniors, our country, travel, aging, people places and things.
Like Horatio Alger, many of my people articles have been “rags to riches” in emphasis. Or, overcoming handicaps like Helen Keller.
Consider Renee Bondi. She wasn’t always a quadriplegic, as she is now. Recently I heard her sing and heard and saw her interviewed. Her singing is smooth and melodic. She also has a wide range from low alto to high soprano.
She and her husband Mike have been married 25 plus years and have a son, Daniel, who is 18. They live in San Juan Capistrano. 1988 marked a drastic change in her life. A devout Roman Catholic, she was recognized as one of the best Gospel singers in the USA, on a par with Sandi Patty.
In May of 1988, she fell out of bed and severed her spinal cord.
The pain was severe and in the ICU the doctor informed her that she was a quadriplegic and would never walk again or ever sing again. She was to be married in July to her fiancé.
Against all odds and all physicians prognosis, Renee’s voice was miraculously restored. She has written a book of her life: “The Last Dance Bur Not the Last Song.”
In addition to being a very talented singer and musician, Renee is an emotional public speaker. She has the gift to inspire and motivate the audience. Always she tries to lead the listeners to a higher spiritual Christian commitment.
It is also her personal goal. Her relationship with God has been the source of her optimistic spirit and deep faith. Recently she was confined to her bed for several months, lying on her stomach.
She spent a part of each day memorizing Scripture and meditating on it. Her favorite chapter is Philippians, 4th chapter. It contains such verses as: ”I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.” And: “My God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” She would follow Scripture with the memorization of verses of song.
Jason Wolfe is my second important person. Now 45 years old, he says he wondered as a kid if he would ever see adulthood. He didn’t think he’d be alive. Father gone, mother disabled, on welfare, too many children and she sent him to an orphanage, the Milton Hershey School.
It’s the best financed school for impoverished kids in the country with over 7 billion dollars in assets. Currently the school serves 1,925 students-boys and girls. The School owns controlling interest in the Hershey Company and all of its interests.
On April 29, 2014 Jason was named the 2014 Alumnus of the Year. “The standard is amazing. Recipients of the award have demonstrated a human and exemplary service to others. Jason meets all the requirements.”
He is an usher at Orchard Hill Church and participates in a Bible study group. He has been on three mission trips to Haiti. Last year he and his 9 year old son took a van across the country filled with gifts for needy children at Christmas time.
Today he is the owner of Gift Cards. Com that he founded in 1999. Last year it earned approximately 150 million dollars.
He credits his success to the values he learned at the orphanage: hard work, concern for others and being a Christian.
Bob Bell. He was born and raised in Pensacola, Florida. In High School he was a football star, coached by Joe Scarborough, of the Morning Joe program on MSNBC.
During his freshman year of college, tragedy hit. In a roughhousing bout with a friend, Bob’s neck was broken and he became crippled. Bob has spent the last twenty-four years as a quadriplegic.
However, anyone who has seen or heard him speak knows that his spirit was not damaged. As one friend says, “His journey since then, both literally and metaphorically has been truly awe-inspiring.
His recent book has a unique title. “Un Moving Four Ward.” Decipher its meaning for yourself. Basically it is for anyone “who has faced, is facing or will face a difficult time in their life.”
Obviously, it is for everyone. It has humor in it, inspiration, informative and is painfully honest.
There is a basic challenge in it. That we should live the one life we’ve been given to its absolute fullest. The book is full of stories and tips for keeping a positive perspective despite life’s problems.
Amen. Selah. So be it.
Ideas and insights
By G. W. Abersold Ph.D.
This article is a smorgasbord of interesting ideas and insights. Fifteen of them.
Of all the people that graced CBS’ 60 Minutes, Andy Rooney was my favorite. In one of his books he wrote an interesting item about Igor Stravinsky. Born 1882 in St. Petersburg, Russia, he came to the USA in 1939 and became a U.S. citizen in 1946. He died on April 6, 1971 in New York City.
He is considered the greatest composer of the 20th century. One of his best known sayings is, “My music is best understood by children and animals.”
Rooney said that Stravinsky started his career in Russia as a newspaper columnist. However, he complained that the breadth of what he could write about “drove him crazy.” He wanted something that was predictable. He turned to the 7 notes of the scale: do, re, me, fa, so, la, ti; then the octive. He became a composer.
I saw a most interesting statistic recently regarding happiness. The citizens of New York City are the unhappiest in the USA. Maybe it’s because they were not the one in twenty-five citizens of NYC that is a millionaire.
Second unhappiest city is Pittsburgh, PA.; followed by Louisville, Kentucky and Detroit, Michigan.
On the opposite side of the fence, the citizenry of Richmond, VA are considered the happiest people in the USA. Second is Norfolk, VA followed by Washington, D.C. and Atlanta, Georgia.
I was saddened to read of the death of Louie Zamperini at the age of 97. The book “Unbroken,” about him, is being made into a movie by Angela Jolie. An amazing hero in World War II, he was to be the Rose Parade’s Grand Marshall on January 1, 2015. In 1960 I had him speak at the church I was pastoring in Cypress, California.
George Bernard Shaw said, “Beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance.”
I like this statement by Alice Walker: “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.”
Did you hear about this incident? A Frontier Airliner was stranded in Wyoming. It left Washington, D.C. for Denver. They were kept on the plane for seven hours. The Captain Gerhard Bradner, ordered thirty- five pizzas for them.
While Frontier is known for being cheap, but not so Captain Bradner. He explained, “They were my responsibility.”
Barney and Betty were sitting on the couch watching TV. They were married for 50 years. Suddenly Barney says, “Hon, promise me that if I ever become dependent on just machines and bottled fluids that you will put an end to it.” “No problem, my love,” said Betty. She promptly got up, turned off the TV and poured his beer down the drain.
Jesus said, “I am come that you might have life and that you might have it more abundantly. Right now.” (John 10:10)
The great boxer Jack Dempsey said, “A champion is someone who gets up when he can’t.” Obviously the word “champion” applies to all of us, boxer or not.
Eleanor Roosevelt was a great woman. She said, “When you cease to make a contribution, you begin to die.”
I really like this comment by George Will. “Pessimism is as American as apple pie-FROZEN apple pie with a slice of processed cheese.”
This thought is almost unbelievable. Do you know if I doubled a penny every day, and continued doubling it daily for a month, the total would be over 5 million dollars?
The word “why” is a great door-opener for information. For instance. Why do ships and aircraft use “mayday” as their call for help? The answer is because it comes from the French word m’aidez-meaning ‘help me-and is pronounced, approximately, ‘mayday.’
This one will blow you away. The French again are involved. Why are zero scores in tennis called ‘love’.
The answer involves France because it was the first country to popularize tennis. The round zero on the score board looked like an egg and was called ‘l’oeuf.’ Which is French for “the egg.” When tennis was introduced in the U.S., Americans (naturally) mispronounced it “love.”
One more. Why is someone who is feeling great “on cloud nine?” Because clouds are numbered according to the altitudes they attain, with nine being the highest cloud. The person on cloud nine is floating well above worldly cares.
Thanks to Warren Mitchell for the “why.” . Amen. Selah. So be it.
Pope Francis continues to make changes
By G. W. Abersold Ph.D.
Pope Francis is on a roll. Not only is he changing the image of a Pontiff, he is radically changing the Vatican and the Roman Catholic’s influence in the world.
With all his activity it is important to remember that he is not a young man. In his teens he played sports and became a world class dancer. His comrades tell of his dancing the night away with a series of beautiful young ladies.
Unfortunately he is vulnerable to pneumonia because of the loss of a lung. Word is that he has also gained 20 pounds. He needs our continual prayers.
Pope John XXIII (23rd) and he have a lot in common. Both have brought great changes to the Church. Both reached out to non-Catholics and leaders of other religions.
Recently he made a trip to Israel accompanied by Jewish, Muslim and Eastern Orthodox leaders. He visited several sacred shrines and consulted with both Israeli and Palestinian political leaders.
His major message was for peace in the Holy Land. He emphasized the primacy of peace in all religions. In no uncertain words he called for unity and tolerance among all countries and religions.
Two subjects have really stirred the ire and vocabulary of the Pontiff: the Mafia and pedophilia among priests. In recent days he visited the region of Calabria. He visited the family of a three year old boy that had been killed by members of the Ndranghera syndicate.
The Pope was so upset that one Vatican writer said, “The Pope gave words of unequivocal condemnation never before issued from the mouth of a pope.”
Before a Mass of 200,000 people the Pope roared, “Those who in their life have gone along with the evil ways, as in the case of the Mafia, they are not with God, they are excommunicated.”
One writer in Italy interpreted the statement, “Italians who do not follow the church are no longer welcome in it.”
The Calabria Mafia is the power base of the drug trafficking syndicate, making billions of dollars each year. They also extort money from businesses and infiltrate government agencies.
Pope Francis, in his homily, denounced the Mafia for its, “adoration of evil and contempt for the common good.” He then went on to say, “The Mafiosi are not in communication with God. They are excommunicated.”
In a special mass to honor hundreds of men, women and children murdered by the Mafia, the Pope challenged members of the mafia to “change their lives. Convert. Stop doing evil. . . There’s still time to stay out of hell. That’s what’s waiting for you if you stay in this path.”
Pope John Paul initially spoke in 1993, when he angrily called the Mafioso to “Repent, because one day you will face the judgment of God.”
In response to those who fear for Pope Francis’ life, he responded, “It’s true that anything can happen. But let’s face it, at my age I don’t have much to lose.”
The Pope’s second outburst of anger was directed at the pedophiles in the priesthood. He left no doubt about his feelings when referring to the perpetrators, “I have zero tolerance for them,” he said.
Recently he held a special mass at a small Vatican church, followed by private meetings with six victims of pedophile priests. “He begged for their forgiveness and condemned the Catholic Church’s complicity in covering up despicable actions and grave sins.”
Pope Frances is backing off somewhat of his statement that one in fifty priests is a pedophile. This rate would mean there are 8000 pedophiles in the priesthood worldwide. He described it as “a leprosy in our home,” that infected even bishops and cardinals.
As a corollary “he mused that celibacy for priests was introduced only 900 years after Jesus’ death.” He implied it was time for revision. Incidentally, the Eastern Orthodox churches split with the Roman Catholics over the matter of celibacy: Their priests are permitted to marry.
A recent article from Chicago uncovered thousands of pages of secret church documents revealing that the Archdiocese of Chicago failed to protect children from abusive priests.
The article continued “the Bishops shuttled accused priests from parish to parish. They failed to notify police of child sexual abuses. The ones in authority believed the guilty priest could be cured with counseling. Even the Cardinals were complicit. Over 65 priests were found guilty in the indictments.”
Pope Francis is relentless in defrocking all priests found guilty. Amen. Selah. So be it.