How much for your vote?

dollar-726884_960_720The special congressional election in Georgia’s Sixth District set a sad record: most money ever spent on a congressional election.

Thirty million dollars.  And as I said, sad.

The district has a population of just under 700,000.  A subset of that number is eligible to vote and as in every district, the subset of people who actually vote is smaller.

The special election generated 260,000 votes.  I figure 80 percent were sure bets to vote for either the Democrat or the Republican.  That means there were about 52,000 people who were pondering their pick.

And it was to influence the decisions of those 52,000 voters that political operatives spent $30,000,000.  For that heap of cash, you gets lots of radio and television ads, billboards, posters, brochures, buttons, refrigerator magnets and rubber-chicken dinners.

Of course, what you are looking for is votes.  If you do the math, you are spending $577 for each of the 52,000 votes in play.  Like I said, sad.

Something is terribly wrong when we spend so much money to market, promote and sell political candidates.  We must believe that the biggest spender will win, not the soundest idea.  Does money make right?

Shut up and play the game

soccer-673488_960_720Depending on your point of view, Jaelene Hinkle is either a hero or a bigot.

In my view, she is just a talented soccer player and Christian.  But because of her firm (but compassionate) Christian view, she is sitting out a couple big soccer matches this month.

A little background.  Hinkle plays on the US Women’s National Soccer Team.  That means she is no athletic slouch.

The team is playing a couple international “friendly” matches this month.  A friendly is a little like a pre-season or practice game in that it doesn’t count in any sort of league or tournament standings.  It doesn’t necessarily mean that the players are friends or behave in a friendly manner during the match.

In a bountiful not to political correctness, the US team is wearing rainbow gay pride jerseys for these matches.  I guess they want to demonstrate solidarity with LGBT folk, some of whom I presume are soccer players and fans.

Hinkle is sitting out the matches rather than wear the gay jersey, which she bravely says conflicts with her faith.  To her credit, she isn’t making a big deal about it, just practicing her faith.

I don’t think this is a choice a soccer player should have to make.

There are myriad causes the soccer team could promote on its jerseys:

  • Whole grains for breakfast
  • Right to life
  • Global warming
  • Benefits of regular exercise
  • Save the whales
  • Clean water
  • Gun control
  • Drive 55
  • Yoga
  • World peace

For me, the obvious think to promote would be bass fishing, but others would likely disagree.  So here is a novel thought; why don’t we promote soccer on soccer jerseys?

Rather than promoting a political, social, moral or religious cause, why not put the team name and a number on each jersey?  The US Team is a rather big deal, so it might make sense to add the individual player’s name.

Anything else should relate to the game, perhaps a snappy slogan:  “Let’s kick hard and whip the Russians.”  At the end of the day, it isn’t the style of the jersey that counts; it is whether you put the ball in the net.

Keep it Simple

640px-Gospel_of_johnGod so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. — JN 3:16-18

 This is my favorite Gospel reading.  Short.  Clear.  Simple.

I’m a simple guy.  I believe most problems have an obvious answer.  We may not like the answer and it may not be easy, but right is right and wrong it wrong.

That being my view, I’m astonished at how complicated we make our faith.  People study for years to become Bible scholars.  The scholars write millions or books and articles.  We fill libraries with books analyzing everything in the Bible and everything anyone has ever writer about anything ever said about what is in the Bible.

I enjoy reading, and I read many books about the faith.  I tend to enjoy books about people who have heroically lived their faith.  I’m not as enthusiastic about books that argue the fine points of theology.  I’m glad there are theologians, but I’m even more glad I’m not one of them.

I searched the book section of Amazon and got more than half a million results for “Bible.”  Should I laugh or cry?

Catholics of all varieties have been debating of late whether divorced and remarried Catholics can receive communion.  I have an opinion, but in light of the gospel passage above, I’m not sure my opinion is all that important.

I have orthodox views, what many people call conservative.  If everyone observed the 10 commandments, the world would be a safer, more peaceful place.  The commandments may not be easy to follow – but they are simple.  But rules alone can’t make us happy and won’t get us into heaven.

Jesus isn’t about rules. He is about salvation, which comes from believing.  He is about mercy, not punishment.  He is about love, not law enforcement.  He is the Word and invites us into a personal relationship.

Sometimes I feel like I’ve been transported back to pre-Christian times.  Debate abounds over church music, church architecture and what color shoes altar servers should wear.  We need more rules and better enforcement, right?

Pre-Christian Israel had lots of rules, but it wasn’t working.  So God did something that changed everything:

God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. — JN 3:16-18

Sparks will fly…

glitterCome Holy Spirit.  Fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love.

If you liked glitter Ash Wednesday, you’ll love Sparkly Pentecost.

That’s right.  The LBGT folks who put glitter on one holy day are putting sparkle in other.  They promoted glitter in the ashes for the start of Lent.  And tomorrow they are marketing bags of glitter to be thrown into the air during Pentecost services.  This supposedly will confer on everyone a “glitter blessing” and somehow affirm LGBT lifestyles.

In reality, it is an attempt to show Christian solidarity with folks who are confused about their sexuality. It is a tacky trick to get attention, confuse acceptance and endorsement, and exploit something of greater importance than whether boys can kiss boys, girls can kiss girls and anyone can enter the bathroom of their choice.

Pentecost is about the gift of the Holy Spirit.  It is a gift presented to all, undeserved and inexplicable.

Pentecost isn’t about affirming a particular race, religion, biological orientation, décor, team spirit, shoe size or hair color.  It isn’t about you or me, but the Holy Spirit.

But I expect the appropriation of holy days for unholy purposes is just getting started.  Look for rainbow flags on the Fourth of July, transgender turkeys on Thanksgiving and glitter Christmas trees in December.  I don’t know what these folks will dream up for Labor Day, but I’m sure it will be disgusting.

Pentecost isn’t a day to make political statements or issue demands.  Let’s try gratitude.  God created you.  Jesus loves you.  The Holy Spirit is with you.

 

Prepare for battle

wrestleIn a couple days, Pope Francis and Donald Trump will meet face to face, person to person, two heavyweight approaching the center ring of international diplomacy.

I have been reading the advance predictions about what they will discuss and whether there will be sparks.  From what some writers suggest, this could be a titanic, awkward clash of irreconcilable differences.

Of course, the news media depend on conflict, so it won’t be much of a story if Francis and Trump get together, swap recipes, and tell family stories.  The press wants blood, and given the history of these two men, they have some reason to expect it.

Despite being people of different cultures, occupations, and histories, Francis and Trump have one huge thing in common:  causing chaos in the public square.  For Trump, the tool of choice is Twitter.  For Francis, the tool of choice is the off-the-cuff comment, often in an airplane news conference.

The assumption is that these two giants of the international stage have little to nothing in common – but I dare to disagree.  Some examples:

Francis worries about global warming and Trump is a skeptic.  But both want the earth of prosper and people to have enough food and shelter.

Trump wants to build a wall and Francis favors bridges.  But both want a workable immigration system that helps those in need and recognizes the sovereignty of nations.

Both men are Christians and want the persecution of Christians around the world to end.

At the risk of sounding like a beauty pageant participant, I believe both men want world piece, although they likely won’t agree on the steps to get there.

There won’t be fisticuffs, mud wrestling or foul language.  There will be a search for common ground and an effort to build a foundation for collaboration.

I have a sense they could become friends.

Mother of all whatever

BLU-82_Daisy_Cutter_FireballPope Francis got lots of media attention (a common event) this week when he expressed shame at the American reference to dropping the “mother of all bombs” on some nasty people in Afghanistan.

The bomb’s official name is GBU-43 Massive Ordinance Air Blast (MOAB). I suppose MOAB could be an acronym for “mother of all bombs.”

In any event, I agree with the Pope that the mixing of bombs and motherhood I a bit distressing.  Motherhood ought to involve cuddly babies, pot roast in the oven and mini-vans going to soccer matches.  No bombs allowed.

This motherly controversy inspired me to do some research and I discovered that the term “mother of all” is, well, the mother of all phrases.  That is, it turns up often.

There is evidence is has Arabic origins, with Saddam Hussein having called the Gulf War the “mother of all battles.”  For Saddam, it turn out to be the “mommy dearest” of all battled.

The mother of all modified has been widely applied:

  • Mother of all marches
  • Mother of all terrorist groups
  • Mother of all questions
  • Mother of all countdowns
  • Mini of all mini lipstick duo
  • Mother of all lists
  • Mother of all brunches
  • Mother of all herbs

You get the idea.  Something really big and special becomes “mother of whatever.”  It could be something good or something bad – mother of all chocolate bars or mother of all mosquitos.  Frankly, mother really doesn’t make sense in any of these examples.

Therefore, I propose an alternative to mother of all:  honking humungous.  It works really well with a range of topics:

  • Honking humungous elephant
  • Honking humungous argument
  • Honking humungous army
  • Honking humungous computer

I think it works.  And even though I set out to write the mother of all blogs, I’m happy to settle for one that is just honking humungous.

Another step toward total depredation

deathThe “Newsbusters” headline sums it up:  Jewelry Company Offers Parents ‘Sacred Art’ Made of IVF Embryos.

That’s right, fertility fans who have leftover embryos after conspiring with modern medicine to play God, can make jewelry from the uncompleted, potential humans.

I would say this is as sick as it can get, but I’ve said that before and been proved wrong.  So…I’m sure something more horrendous will crop up sooner than you can imagine.

Humans have a long and sordid history of misusing parts of dead people.

There is evidence that some Mesoamericans used human heads in a game resembling soccer.

Some Native American tribes ate the organs of defeated enemies, apparently in the belief the practice gave them greater strength.

Some ancient cultures used the skin of defeated enemies to make wall coverings.  The Nazis updated this practice to the creation of human skin lamps.

Chopping off heads has been a practice from ancient times through the Middle Ages, the French Revolution and today’s beheading enthusiasts, ISIS.

Thus, the problem of what to do with a leftover body or part of a body has long challenged the crueler side of the human mind.  Severed heads can be hung from a pole or be impaled on a post.

Now, I’m sure someone will raise the issue of those creepy Catholics and their relics.  You know, pieces of saints’ bones, fingernails, hair and whatever.

No, it isn’t the same, for many reasons, of which I’ll state only the most obvious:

·       Catholics don’t abuse the body parts of enemies, they venerate the relics of really great people.

·       We keep them in respectful containers, not in hoop earrings or souvenir pendants.

There is a huge difference between honoring a saint’s relic and desecrating a body.  Desecrating a baby’s body is hard to comprehend.

We think our culture is so advanced.  We’ve put behind us all the barbaric practices of the past.  But somehow, they keep cropping up.

What would be grosser than making dead babies into cufflinks?  I don’t know, but I’m sure someone already is working on it.

 

Bravely forward I go

teeth-887338_960_720Yesterday was my day of bravery.  I left my home, alone and unsupported in my moment of challenge.  A short drive and I arrived at the place where I would offer myself for assessment and potential discomfort.

Yes, I went to the dentist to have my teeth cleaned.  Having my teeth cleaned isn’t painful, but my dentist is thorough almost always finds something that requires further attention.  Perhaps a cavity or a crack in a tooth.  Yesterday, she recommended a cap for a crumbling molar; I said I’ll procrastinate until my next cleaning.  Getting a tooth cap isn’t physically painful, but financially so.

A couple years ago, my dentist sent me to a specialized oral surgeon to have some specialized work on my very special gums.  The doctor did a fine job and it didn’t hurt much (physically).

I like my dentist and have great confidence in her judgement and skills.  But she doesn’t do the specialized work she sent me down the road to receive.  And it never occurred to me to demand she do the work – or sue her if she refused.  I don’t think it makes sense to force someone to poke around in your mouth who doesn’t want to be there.

So…I’m mentioning all this to cautiously sneak into the subject of sex-transition surgery.  This is both more serious and more silly than dentistry.  But like dentistry, it requires certain skills and isn’t to be taken lightly.

I recently read about a woman who wants to be a man, for which she wants to undergo surgery.  The thought of such surgery is inconceivable to me.  And such surgery is inconceivable to the private Catholic hospital where the woman desiring manhood asked to have her surgery.

The hospital explained that it is Catholic and doesn’t do surgery that runs counter to God’s plan, which doesn’t include trying to surgically convert women to men.  As could easily be predicted, the woman and the hospital now are embroiled in a lawsuit.  The woman says she has suffered terrible discrimination and, of course, is getting help from the American Civil Liberties Union.

As I said earlier, this is both serious and silly. It is serious because a Catholic hospital should never have to defend its practice of the Catholic faith.  And it is silly because, well, I can’t imagine suing someone to operate on a part of me they don’t want to operate on – especially THOSE parts.

Beyond the fine print

passengers-519008_1920I starting traveling more than…well…a long time ago.  When I was young, inexperienced and a bit nervous about flying, I probably read the fine print that comes with an airline ticket.

Lawyers write the fine print.  It is there so, in the event the flight doesn’t go as planned, they can say they warned you it might be cancelled, delayed or sent to an unscheduled stop.  You might lose your seat and/or your luggage.  You are reminded that the flight crew is in charge and must be obeyed.

There isn’t anything in the fine print about being dragged off the plane kicking and screaming and having a video of your performance go viral on social media.  But as we’re learned in the past few days, those are possibilities.

A doctor got on a United flight from to O’Hare to Louisville.  United sold more tickets than it had seats.  United picked some folks to take off the plane.  The doctor wouldn’t leave, so the always gentle Chicago Aviation Police thugs dragged him off.

As the police and doctor crossed the jet bridge, I’m sure an official alert went out to journalists and slip-and-fall lawyers:  opportunity is knocking.  A passenger videoed the events, so there is great fodder for further discussion.  And next thing you know there are news stories, radio commentaries, limp apologies by United, following by more stern apologies, following by some groveling.

Now it will all go to court.  United will claim it followed proper procedure, it is all very unfortunate and is being overblown.  The doctor’s legal team will claim he was injured both physically and psychologically and will never be the same again – although a few million bucks will salve his suffering.

The personal life of the doctor, the police who arrested him, the passengers, the pilots and anyone else within 100 yards of the plane when the incident occurred will likely be subject to public scrutiny.  Something controversial will be found in every personal history.

I’ve been a spokesman for a major oil company and a Catholic religious congregation.  Oil companies handle materials that blow up and catch fire, so that job had its challenges.  As for the religious congregation, there has been a good deal of controversy.

As a result, I feel deep empathy for the United spokesman who has to talk with the press about this.  I don’t know the person or the players involved, but I can predict the following with near certainty:

  • There was a discussion with senior management about how much blame to accept – or to place on the passenger.
  • Company lawyers advise against saying anything that can and will be used against the company in court – which means don’t say anything.
  • The spokesman is trying to put a happy face on a mess he didn’t create.
  • The spokesman likely had advised long ago that something like this could happen and suggested procedures to avoid it, which were ignored.

United and other airlines need to recall the Golden Rule, “do unto others as you would have others do unto you.”  I propose several practical applications for airlines:

  • If you sell a person a ticket on a plane, don’t give their seat to anyone else.
  • Never intentionally overbook.
  • If you make a mistake, don’t put people on the plane and then try to get someone to get off.
  • If you don’t have the seat you sold to someone, don’t expect to make them happy by giving them a seat on the next flight, a dinner voucher for a meal in the airport and/or a travel voucher to use later. Give the traveler a big, fat check or cold hard cash and cover any additional expenses they incur because you messed up.

My advice to airline customers?  Next time, drive.

This is about losers, of which I most certainly am one

loserNCAA March Madness. One team wins and the rest lose their final game of the year

20,000 runners start the Chicago Marathon Only one crosses the finish line first, leaving 19,999 losers. Some don’t even finish the race

50 women compete in the Miss America contest, which produces one perfect beauty and 49 plain Janes

Kids participate in sports today and everybody gets a participation trophy.  But in later life, the shock will come when they learn they lose more than they win.

Oddly, there are situations where high performers miss more than they connect.  A baseball player who hits 300 is a star.  That stat means he fails 70 percent of the time.

The best hockey players miss 4-5 shots for every one they make.  I guess the only players who aren’t total losers are the goalies.

And think about soccer – those losers run all over the field and hardly ever make a score.

Losing…failing…seems to be all part of life.  And then you die.

It would be a truly miserable existence – if we accept the description of winning and losing I’ve presented.

Very few win it all, and sometimes those who do are blinded by their success and miss the things that really matter:  hope, faith, love, mercy, forgiveness, sacrifice, humility.

Every person is a sinner. We are humbled (or at least should be) by our imperfections, shortcomings and failures. No matter how hard we try, we mess up.

Because of this, how blessed we are to have our Catholic faith.  We receive mercy and forgiveness we don’t merit, that was earned for us by the Son of God.

Some things I’m happy to lose:  shame, guilt, fear, anger, resentment, self-pity.  Losing can be beautiful.

The longer I live and the more I sin, go to confession, sin some more, confess some more…the more I think the losses I have experienced have allowed me to win at the most important game of life:  accepting myself, loving myself, know that I’m a child of God.

And I’ve finally come to terms with the sad fact that I’m never going to be a rock star.