Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Old Photo Albums

...yield the strangest things.

This was taken in 1972. I was 20 and visiting my Grandparents in Cabot, Arkansas (just north of Little Rock). 1972. Little Rock. Arkansas....

I was sitting at a McDonalds, outside at a wooden picnic table eating a Big Mac and sweating so much my hair was dripping. It was probably 98 degrees and 90% humidity. I didn't think it wise to eat inside the way the diners were looking at me.

Can you say "Deliverance"?

Anyway, I'd been there maybe ten minutes and a police car pulls in and circles the parking lot once. Twice. Three times. Ring around the hippie.

The car stops at the curb and the cop gets out of his car. He was the "Southern cop cliche". Aviator sunglasses. Big gut. Swagger. He steps up to my table. I look up at him. He drawls, "Yew 'bout done?"

"Um...just about," I say half cheerfully, trying not to sound sarcastic.

He tugs at his belt as if his pants are going to fall down. "Mebbe yew didn't git it...Yew 'bout done?"

I got it. "Yessir, I'm done." I start wrapping my burger up and stuffing it in the bag.

"Good. " He looks around slowly and says staring off into space without looking at me, "It's kinda busy round here and we need places fer folks to sit."

I look around. I'm the only one sitting outside. "Yessir. I see that. I'll make room right away."

"Awright. And it stays pretty busy here, so I wouldn't come back anytime soon, y'hear?"

"Got it. Thanks for the warning."

I get in my 1968 Volkswagon Beetle with the smiling sunrise painted over the back license plate light and head to my grandparent's house. He sits in his car and watches me drive away. I watch my rear view mirror to make sure he stayed put.

I suppose I was lucky he didn't see a tail light out or something that might warrant an arrest somewhere along the ten mile stretch of highway between Little Rock and Cabot.

Friday, November 23, 2007


(Thanks to Benedict's blog for the article)

Had Toni Vernelli gone ahead with her pregnancy ten years ago, she would know at first hand what it is like to cradle her own baby, to have a pair of innocent eyes gazing up at her with unconditional love, to feel a little hand slipping into hers - and a voice calling her Mummy.

But the very thought makes her shudder with horror.

Because when Toni terminated her pregnancy, she did so in the firm belief she was helping to save the planet.

At the age of 27 this young woman at the height of her reproductive years was sterilised to "protect the planet".

Incredibly, instead of mourning the loss of a family that never was, her boyfriend (now husband) presented her with a congratulations card.

While some might think it strange to celebrate the reversal of nature and denial of motherhood, Toni relishes her decision with an almost religious zeal.

"Having children is selfish. It's all about maintaining your genetic line at the expense of the planet," says Toni, 35.

"Every person who is born uses more food, more water, more land, more fossil fuels, more trees and produces more rubbish, more pollution, more greenhouse gases, and adds to the problem of over-population."

While most parents view their children as the ultimate miracle of nature, Toni seems to see them as a sinister threat to the future.

"The only person who understood how I felt was my first husband, who didn't want children either. We both passionately wanted to save the planet - not produce a new life which would only add to the problem."

But when she was 25, disaster struck.

"I discovered that despite taking the Pill, I'd accidentally fallen pregnant by my boyfriend. I was horrified. I knew straight away there was no option of having the baby. I went to my doctor about having a termination, and asked if I could be sterilised at the same time. I didn't like having a termination, but it would have been immoral to give birth to a child that I felt strongly would only be a burden to the world. I've never felt a twinge of guilt about what I did, and have honestly never wondered what might have been.”

"I've never doubted that I made the right decision. Ed and I married in September 2002, and have a much nicer lifestyle as a result of not having children. We love walking and hiking, and we often go away for weekends. Every year, we also take a nice holiday - we've just come back from South Africa. We feel we can have one long-haul flight a year, as we are vegan and childless, thereby greatly reducing our carbon footprint and combating over-population.”

Meet Sarah and Mark

Most young girls dream of marriage and babies. But Sarah dreamed of helping the environment - and as she agonised over the perils of climate change, the loss of animal species and destruction of wilderness, she came to the extraordinary decision never to have a child.

"I realised then that a baby would pollute the planet - and that never having a child was the most environmentally friendly thing I could do."

Mark adds: "Sarah and I live as green a life a possible. We don't have a car, cycle everywhere instead, and we never fly. We recycle, use low-energy light bulbs and eat only organic, locally produced food. In short, we do everything we can to reduce our carbon footprint. But all this would be undone if we had a child. That's why I had a vasectomy. It would be morally wrong for me to add to climate change and the destruction of Earth. Sarah and I don't need children to feel complete. What makes us happy is knowing that we are doing our bit to save our precious planet."


The Earth has become the god of the new millennium. We have ceased to subdue it, be stewards of it, reverence it as “our mother” as the Hypokoae of Matins in the 8th tone calls it. Toni sacrificed her first born child to the Earth-god and eats vegan (which apparently pleases the meat-gods.) People mutilate themselves in order to “save” the Earth-god and not displease it by “adding to its problems”. In return the Earth-god rewards them with a “much nicer lifestyle” and a long vacation every year in a vehicle that burns thousands of gallons of fossil fuel and is manufactured by god knows what materials stolen from the god's skin, in a fancy hotel built and staffed by parasites and "problems" begotten by irreligious reproducers, has taken up land formerly occupied by trees and is probably a huge gaudy pimple on the face of the god. Is this is the eco-fundamentalist’s version of the prosperity gospel?... we “serve our god” and are rewarded with a nice lifestyle and a vacation to our beach house in Cabo? All false religion shares a common delusion about the gods, it seems.

It is interesting that in our innate religiousness and hubris as human beings, even in moral lunacy, we still use religious language to define our relationship to the gods and the material world. We are now the saviors, but we are saving our own god by sacrificing our humanity on its altar. Who is the true god here? The earth has become the fabled volcano god of the pagans, if we add to its problems and don’t please it, it will kill us. Sacrifice your virgin children even before they leave the womb, don’t eat the forbidden foods. Humanity is a pollution, a parasite on the god. The human being is not an icon of a God not made of dirt, who has given humanity dominion over the dirt. Have we been good stewards? Perhaps not. Are we self centered consumers? Ask Adam and Eve. Is the answer to treat the earth as if it is our personal savior with a bad attitude toward us that needs saving from ourselves?

Those who have no God have no cohesive theology of a "fall". We know something... everything needs saving. People are no more important than a rock or a tree, but there is still a concept of "salvation" of the cosmos albeit the cosmos is only the immediate environment we occupy. The earth god cannot save, neither can we save the god. In short, Eden cannot be reinstated by human effort. Eden did not save humanity in the beginning, human beings will not save it in the end. But the part they have right is that it needs saving and it takes a God who is human and a part of the creation to do that.

Woe to him who says to a piece of wood, 'Awake!' To a mute stone, 'Arise!'
And that is your teacher? Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver,
And there is no breath at all inside it. (Habakkuk 2:19)

Who says to a tree, 'You are my father,' And to a stone, 'You gave me birth.'
They have turned their back to Me… (Jeremiah 2:27)

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Random Thoughts

It seems like I spend more time commenting on other people's blogs than I do writing on my own lately. I kind of have "blog envy" of those who post regular and thoughtful essays on deep theological, sociological, political and cultural themes. Me? I just seem to be wandering through life a day at a time and any thoughts I have during the day that have any "pith" to them seem to vanish by the time I get home from work and sit down at the computer. I read an article recently (I can't remember where...) that more people are stopping blogging than are starting now. I'd imagine there are a lot of folks like me who are in the middle of the road and have "blog guilt" for having a blog but not posting on it regularly after starting off in a sprint and posting every day in the beginning. Maybe most of us are figuring out that other people's lives are more interesting than ours and other people are saying what we are thinking much more eloquently than we can and other people are thinking of stuff that we aren't smart enough to think of. So, what else is there to blog about then?

At 55 and being a fairly "public" person for most of my adult life as a teacher, minister, counselor, writer, radio program host, reader, catechist, blogger, etc. I'm finding myself becoming more reclusive and quiet and less willing to give an opinion, advice and to be in the spotlight. Any more I do it because I'm asked/told, or because I started a work and need to finish it, or it just comes with the territory of a gift I have and a responsibility I've accepted in order to contribute to a bigger picture... but not because I wanted it or sought it out. In a lot of ways I'd love to be anonymous, silent and still. I look at the abbots and abbesses, priests and monks I know and all the responsibilities they have and I wonder how they keep their balance.
Even in the monasteries there is no true silence and true stillness and anonymity. After all the visits to monasteries I've made, I know the monasteries are an even more intense, busy, servile, and public life in many ways. I also know I'm not qualified to be a hermit because I'm not perfected in my love for mankind in general or even specific people.

In a lot of ways my focus has narrowed over the past few years. I don't concern myself much with "the big picture" in any arena of life... politics, Church issues, culture, economics etc. I sometimes listen to talk radio and the SALEM station's talk radio tag line is "Where YOUR opinion counts!" .... ummmm, yeah, right... it counts for Arbitron ratings and higher advertising rates. A media empire is being built on people's narcissism and the illusion that anyone really cares what they think, including the talk show hosts. The reality is, no ones' opinions really count for much of anything, even if someone asks for them. I know that sounds bleak and negative, but in the end all that matters is Truth, not anyone's opinions. I often wonder lately what our conversations would sound like if all we did was "speak the truth in love". Especially when Christ stood silent before Pilate when He was asked "What is truth?"