Thursday, October 29, 2020

On Glinda the Good Witch: a timely Halloween reminder


Photo credit: Paige Cody

The Christian faith teaches that there are two sources of power in this world. Good and evil. You may hear wiccans being called “white witches,” with the idea that they are calling up good magic for good purposes. Nowhere in the Bible are there any sources of power other than God or the devil.

“. . . what pagans sacrifice, they offer to demons and not to God . . .”

-- from 1 Corinthians 10:20

There is no power or magic that does not come from one of those two sources. No cute little fairies or druids or leprochans or Glinda the Good Witch. And if you think you personally have the ability to overpower either of those two sources through your will, smarts or good looks . . .

Be safe this Halloween. Don’t mess with stuff.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Bullying and "Toxic" Masculinity

The problem of bullying has always of been of interest to me, ever since I was a tiny, scared child, often being threatened by my schoolmates. Growing up in small-town Louisiana, there were fights DAILY at school. The participants were sometimes voluntary and sometimes not. Fights always drew a cheering crowd, egging on the violence. Heck, we even had a race riot at one point!

Rarely do I hear stories like that here in Menomonie. Maybe bullying just looks different up here. Of course, when I was in school we didn’t have to worry about mass shootings either. Bullying is more personal but less dangerous (not counting related suicides.)

My three children have almost entirely been homeschooled (in part, because of my bad experience with public school growing up.) When our family has participated in public school classes and activities in Menomonie, the girls didn’t have any problems with bullying at all.

My high school age son, however, has experienced at least mild “bullying” every time he has been a part of public school activities. Every sport. Summer school. Not major bullying. Not enough that he wouldn’t want to keep choosing to participate. Some people were bigger than him; some were smaller. Just people messing with him. A little push or threat. Knock the hat off. What-ya-gonna-do-bout-it? It reminds me of animals establishing their alpha-status. Or maybe this is just how males, stereotypically less able with words and emotions, try to communicate and make friends.

The official school response to bullying seems to be:

  • Make posters and tshirts and have assemblies telling students that bullying is bad (duh.)
  • Tell kids to tell their friends to stop bullying people (does that work?)
  • Tell an adult (who will help you HOW!?)

My mother tried to help me by intervening when I was being threatened. I guess it somewhat worked. The threatening stopped. That solution never felt right to me though. 

The most interesting response to bullying I have ever seen is Veggie Tales’ Junior Asparagus in the Bully Trouble episode (on the Minnesota Cuke and the Search for Samson’s Hairbrush DVD.) A playground bully told Junior and his young vegetable friends that they could not play at the park or they would get beaten up. Junior’s response was to go with his friends, in defiance, to the park and tell the bully he could beat Junior up but Junior would keep coming back to the park and the bully would have to keep beating him up. And Junior’s friends agreed the bully would have to keep beating them up, too. Presumably such an epic smack-down would take more energy than the bully wanted to expend. Junior then offered the bully his friendship and the bully accepted.

I have historically been a total pacifist. Jesus says we should turn the other cheek. When Jesus turned the other cheek, though, he did it as a CHOICE and that was what made the action noble and holy. Is it noble and holy to be a punching bag because you aren’t able or allowed to defend yourself?

My opinions of pacifism have changed for two reasons.

  • At this time, when perhaps we need it the most, healthy manhood is being attacked in our culture.
  • I have a son who, in spite of my pacifist influence, reacts to a physical challenge very differently than my daughters. 

“Masculinity” is not toxic. Our families need strong fathers. Remember that the second half of the much-hated speech by St. Paul in Ephesians 5 (after “Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord.”) tells husbands to “love your wives, as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her . . .” Loving a wife the way Christ loved the Church is not for cowards! It is not a mamby-pamby, sit-on-the-couch-drinking-beer kind of love. It is a fighting love. A working hard love. A protecting love. A sacrificial love. That is masculinity and it is NOT TOXIC. 

Practically speaking, if my son slugged someone or pushed back in self-defense he might be able to dissuade bigger kids from using him as a playtoy and the butt of jokes. This might give him the confidence and self-respect he needs to fight the bigger battles our culture needs men to be able to fight now and in the future. But I don’t think our public education system or legal system makes allowances for retaliation by students in self-defense -- or for having a fair fight in an alpha battle. 

As the battle in our culture and in our Church becomes more and more obvious and inescapable, we need to be preparing our sons for battle and to do hard things. And maybe to get punched in the chops a few times and to get back up again. How can we raise up our sons into men who are willing and able to use the strength and skills they are wired with to defend their countries, families, communities and faith?

I wonder if there is enough consideration for physical self-defense in our country's public schools. Just some thoughts. Your respectful comments are welcome.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Halloween, Minecraft, and the Mushification of Hell

This is me many years ago dressed like Dilbert cartoon character "Phil, Prince of Insufficient Light." Note my schnazzy homemade pitchspoon.  Maybe you can tell I do not like Halloween.

My husband won’t let me keep a Styrofoam gravestone in our front yard year-round with the words “Momento Mori” (Latin for “Remember you must die”) on it. So I am thinking he also will not let me decorate the garage door for Halloween with blown up posters of the painting masters’ works on hell.

I searched for some online and they are pretty horrifying and graphic. Also, everyone is naked, which does not work well during Trick or Treat.

Actually, in my draft of this blog post, I included the most benign of these old paintings of hell and my family told me they were too disturbing to include.

I recently learned that there was a somewhat controversial hell-like region of the videogame Minecraft called “the Nether.” In my experience, that game is pretty tame, so would this be problematic? I checked it out. The Minecraft Nether has lots of comfortable space to move around. There are fire squares and monsters  like “zombie pigmen” and “chicken jockeys” that, with a little practice and a few official cheats, you can easily avoid. 

In my opinion, the problem with this, is that unlike actual hell, the Nether is a place you choose to go to and can leave whenever you want, assuming you find where you left your portal. It’s not that bad. Monsters try to kill you, but they do that in “the Overworld,” too. 

Returning to Halloween, representations of devils can be scary, but then the mask is just removed. There are also all these cutesy, sexy, devil costumes for women, which at least are closer to how the painters saw hell in terms of nudity. 

If Satan’s best and most powerful tool to nab souls is the idea that he and hell do not exist (see C.S. Lewis’ classic book, The Screwtape Letters,) then convincing people that hell isn’t so bad has to be his second best.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Friday, May 31, 2019

NEWS FAST!!! An Experiment

Nine days - no news for me. What would happen? Would the world crumble to dust? Would I crumble to dust? More the latter than the former, thankfully.

My daily news schedule:
Catch the NPR Morning Edition headlines while exercising shortly after rising. 6 minutes? (Tells me how liberals perceive the world.)

Marketplace Morning Report while making the bed and getting dressed. 7 minutes? (Tells me how secular economists perceive the world.)

EWTN News Nightly from the previous night while preparing breakfast. 22 minutes? (Tells me how the US Catholic bishops perceive the world.)

Church Militant's Vortex, Headlines and the Download as they are released throughout the day. 30 minutes total? (Tells me how the experts monitoring the Catholic Church scandals perceive the world.)

Lately I have been enjoying Anglican Unscripted videos when available. (Tells me how conservative Anglicans perceive the scandals in their church and about the culture wars in Canada and the United Kingdom.)

This really hurt. Don't try it at home (ha, ha.) Ouch. Really. My theory that the world as we know it would crumble if I wasn't paying attention was proven false. (Thankfully.) However, I realized how much of my daily routine revolves around taking in news from all these sources. What else are you going to make your bed to besides the daily stock market report? 

I found I had to substitute something in my routine for the hole this left. I listened to a lot of classical music. That was nice but not as nice. It did force me to listen to some really interesting educational stuff I don't make enough time for.

Also interesting, when I did stumble upon news during this fast and heard a few words or saw a few lines it felt really repulsive. Like, you guys are still talking about THAT?! It was like rolling in the mud after taking a shower. 

+++ Update+++

As of several weeks later, for the reason mentioned above, I still have not resumed listening to public radio. And I am still floundering around without a new routine.

Menacing Masonry

Check out this (admittedly blurry) picture of Sojourner House, a homeless shelter run by Catholic Charities in  Eau Claire, WI. In the background you can see the Masonic Lodge peeking menacingly over the top. Location, location, location. 

Sunday, May 12, 2019

St. Cecilia, Then and Now

St. Cecilia Catholic Church in Wisconsin Dells. 

The patron saint of musicians meets modern technology.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

HOW MANY Babies????

My Democrat friends and relatives are starting to get all giddy about the abundance of presidential candidate options that party is presenting now. Strong opinions are being formed.

“He fixes potholes, kisses babies. You know I love the way his wife dresses.” 
-- “Thank God for Governor Pilate,” from Cotton Patch Gospel

None of these things matter, though, if . . . abortion. 

Pro-choicers, in my experience, tend to deny the almost incomprehensible and mind-blowing abortion numbers. Let's do some math and see what we get.

I went to this abortion counter site.  At the time I visited the site it put the number of abortions in the US, since Roe v Wade (1973,) at 61,182,229 babies. That is 61 MILLION babies aborted, in this country alone.

Here is some confirmation of that number’s accuracy.

Confirmation of the 61 million abortions number from Guttmacher Institute (the research arm of Planned Parenthood.)

I used these 2019 state population figures. Then I went population shopping for a way to illustrate this huge number.

The 2018 population of the entire US was 326,766,748 so that abortion figure calculates out to 18.7% of the current US population - almost one fifth. Get ready, this isn’t going to be pretty.

I started with the states with the least population (took me forever.)


Total State Population in 2018
61,182,229 abortions minus state pop =
next up

Summary: Since Roe v Wade in 1973, the number of unborn babies aborted is equal to the entire current population of the 27 states listed above, and including over half of the population of Alabama.

Compare that to the worst genocides the world has recorded. This history site claims the worst massacre in history was of up to 40 million Slavs killed by the Soviets between 1939 and 1945.

50,000,000 to 80,000,000 died in World War II  throughout the entire world.
(Worldwide since 1980, according to the abortion counter website, 1.5 BILLION babies have been aborted.)

“Roughly 1,264,000 American soldiers have died in the nation's wars--620,000 in the Civil War and 644,000 in all other conflicts.”

I have been accused of being a one issue voter (by people who deny the above figures, which I have laid out for you, with explanation and proof, to the best and most honest of my ability.) Until we put an end to abortion, climate change and potholes do not seem that important. 

I am all for a healthy environment, but we have to deal with the problem of abortion first.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

What is Love?

Paradise by the Dashboard Light - GLEE Version

What is Love?

People die -- but so far, not my people. I am untested in grief.

What if someone close to me dies and I don’t cry? What if I believe they have cast off the mud-caked overalls of this life’s reward-less toil and are cleaned up for a rockin’ party with Our Lord and the saints in a better world?

Do I have an obligation to feel sad?

What if they live far away and the impact of their death on my day to day life is lightly felt? What if I don’t cry? What if I don’t notice much? Does that mean I do not love them?

Theologians tell us that love is not an emotion.

If love doesn’t prove itself through feelings, though, how does it prove itself? When I tell my family members I love them, is it true? Am I lying to them? How would I know without consulting my feelings?

The Light Switch Theory of Love

On or off. I love you or I do not love you. You love me or you do not love me. Pass or fail. (See video above.)

Is there any rubric for grading? A study guide? As we like to believe of all religious tests, this is certainly graded on the curve anyway, right? Right?

"Love is a verb, not a destination." -- my daughter, age 20

Saying “I love you” isn't indicative of a completed process from which one can move on to other challenges and pursuits. "Now that I love you (check that one off the list) I can work on something else, maybe learn French or join a canasta club."

Saying “I love you” is, itself, an Act of Love -- an act of building love, of giving love, of loving.

“O my God, I love you above all things, with my whole heart and soul, because you are all good and worthy of all my love. I love my neighbor as myself for the love of you. I forgive all who have injured me and I ask pardon of all whom I have injured.” -- The Act of Love, a traditional Catholic prayer

When you say this prayer to God you aren’t producing a finished product. I love you, God. Done. Saying the prayer is in itself an act of creating and giving and growing in the ability to love God.

In this way, you become what you say.  Imagine the effect of unloving words.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Other People’s Husbands

(Rant warning)

What should your relationship be with other people’s husbands? Should you hold their hands and pray with them? Should this be a required activity? Do you have the right to decide if you are going to hold another person’s hand or not? How about total strangers?

The latest attack from the “Church of Nice” that is my home parish was a homily from Father saying we should hold hands during the Our Father at Mass. Most people do this already but I have not, choosing to just fold my hands in front of me instead.

He actually had an interesting explanation for why “the Church” asks us to do this (I have heard no such universal proclamation.) Remember when Amalek led the Israelites into battle and they were only winning when Moses’ arms were raised but it took a really long time so Aaron and Hur held up Moses' arms all day until sundown and the Israelites were victorious? (Exodus 17: 8 - 13) Well, apparently, when we hold hands during the Our Father we are encouraging our weaker brothers and sisters in Christ by holding their arms up. Or maybe they are encouraging us by holding our arms up . . . ?


On rereading this passage I wonder if Aaron and Hur looked all dignified, standing still and stoic under Moses’ arms all day. I giggle to imagine the squirmy reshifting that I would have done in their place. Balance Moses’ arm on one shoulder, then the other, maybe on my head. I imagine resting my arm on my neighbor’s head as I solemnly pray the Our Father. Well Aaron and Hur’s arms would have gotten tired, too, you know.

But I digress.

Until the recent announcement about this new expectation for proper community participation at the Holy Sacrifice, I preferred to leave the communal hand holding to those who are comfortable with it. But lately I have been rather a thorn in the side of my pastor, asking him to do this or that to appease my traditionalist sensitivities. The heresy level on this is low so I choose to shut up and obey with a smile on my face (and snarky blog post.)

If I teach you anything in this blog, My Children, may it be this. “Always take the easy ones.” Your God will ask many difficult things of you before you die. Some you will likely and unfortunately say “no” to.  If He asks you something small and easy, at LEAST do that. If you obey on enough of the little ones maybe it will make up for one of the big ones you really can’t man up for yet.

So what is my problem with holding the hand of the person next to me when I pray? Well sometimes that person is a snotty, sick five year old (through no fault of their own.) That is just unpleasant. But this brings us to the topic of what you should do with other people’s husbands.

You should not hold the hands of other people’s husbands in the name of some vague communal uplifting. Good reasons I can think of for holding the hands of someone else’s husband . . . 

  1. They have fallen into a pit and you are the only person around to pull them out. Their wife is out buying groceries or something. 
  2. They are dying and you are offering them final prayers and spiritual consolation in the absence of a priest while their wife is out buying groceries.
  3. Um . . .  that’s all I got.

This squeamishness also keeps me out of community theater where similar problems exist.

And do NOT get me started on random, co-ed, Holy Thursday foot-washing lines. . .

(End rant.)

Sand - A Poem

Before the Big Bang and/or the Garden of Apples, you blueprinted my body, anticipated my soul.
From the beginning of time to this time.

I am a sand dune, laid grain on grain by all of man's history, distant and obscure.
Recent generations have shaped me with a more effective, firmer shove, building short-lived castles upon me and digging protective heffalump holes.

Now, in my here time I am finally allowed to offer my voluntary submission to the often unnoticeable waves of movement and erosion.
Sometimes a stream of sand three grains wide plummeting into the tiny air hole of a buried crab.
Sometimes the whomp of a big wave (across the head), like a bulldozer, with the sense of the Creator's touch - skin to skin as the mound moves.

Later, fire will turn my sand to crystal and I shall reflect the light - as the Garden of Apples intended.