Cromey Online

The writings of author, therapist, and priest Robert Warren Cromey.

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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Report from Mississippi - from my daughter

MISSISSIPPI MISSION TRIP
By Leigh Lindsay
May 31,2006

As I looked out the window from the airplane as we approached the New Orleans Airport, I marveled at how many people had swimming pools in their backyards. As we got closer I realized the bright blue I was seeing was not pools but tarps covering as yet un-repaired roofs damaged by Hurricane Katrina nine months ago.

I was on my way to spend a week at Camp Coast Care in Long Beach, Mississippi doing whatever volunteer work was asked of me. I was joined by eleven other members of Trinity Episcopal Church, New Haven. Since the end of August 2005 when the hurricane hit I had heard many reports of the damage and recovery efforts in the area but I was still unprepared for the extent of the damage still visible and the work that needed to be done,

The clean-up part had largely been completed, that is roads were clear, tree limbs were neatly stacked or already removed, and tarps were tidily fastened to the roofs. But what I wasn’t prepared for were the empty concrete slabs where a home once stood, or the abandoned shopping center with just a sign hanging crookedly. Trailers were parked in front of many homes which signaled the interiors were still uninhabitable. Many homes that were not actually flooded still had extensive water damage due to the wind damage of the roof. Apparently the waiting time for a new roof is still quite lengthy.

Our group spent time doing a variety of jobs: hanging sheet rock including mudding and sanding, some electrical work, caulking, painting; and removing insulation, wiring, damaged paneling, and seemingly millions of nails from wall studs. Other jobs included rebuilding a fence and building 96 partitions to be used in a new camp to house youth volunteers this summer.

The work was sometimes physically difficult and always hot and sweaty. But these minor inconveniences paled in comparison to the struggles the people we met had been living with for nine months. We met a young couple who had only been in their new house for 2 weeks before the storm hit and blew the roof off their house. We helped an older couple re-build their long time home which housed them and their extensive collections. And we helped a lively widow who was filling her spare time volunteering for the same organization we were.

In addition to helping people in the Gulf Coast area of Mississippi our group formed strong bonds of friendship and cohesion. We felt connected to each other and to this part of the world in a way that I did not expect. The joint Lutheran /Episcopal relief efforts of Camp Coast Care expect to needed in the Long Beach area for 5-7 years. I was deeply impressed by their efforts and the efforts of the volunteers we met from other parts of the country who came to put their faith into action and to be the Good Neighbor.

Items: Clergy in Trouble and Keillor Quote

Clergy in Trouble

Two clergy of the Episcopal Church recently faced public notoriety by publicity alleging crimes or breaking the rules of the church. We are usually bewildered by such allegations and feel helpless. We think, well the person is guilty until proven innocent, however, the American way, or whatever is left of it, says the person is innocent until proven guilty.

Skillings and Lay of Enron also were innocent until proven guilty. Now that they are convicted of their crimes, I am quite willing to suspend my opposition to capital punishment in their cases. Be that as it may, one item caught my attention when they were originally charged with the crimes some years ago. His rector accompanied one of them, going into the courthouse.

Now that priest was exactly right, he was with his apparently errant church member in a time of crisis. He gave support to his Christian brother and his family when pain, sorrow and exposure were visited upon them. The priest’s job was not to judge the right or wrong but to love and support his brother and parishioner. I’ll bet he prayed for them too.

I recently asked a priest in trouble what clergy were in contact with him. The answer was three in a Diocese of four hundred clergy. The scandal was reported on television, so many must have seen it or heard of it. Yet only three priests responded to their colleague in trouble.

My rule is that when I hear one of my brothers or sisters is in trouble or sick, I send them and email assuring them of my care and prayers for them. It is so easy with email, no handwriting, no envelopes, stamps and trips to the post box. If one has no email, a simple note or card is so much appreciated.

I have had a couple of major surgeries and a number of public fights with the bishop and news media. Cards and emails of support and prayers were most heartening and welcome.


Here's a quote from a Garrison Keillor column.

Having been called names, one looks back at one's own angry outbursts over the years, and I recall having once referred to Republicans as "hairy-backed swamp developers, fundamentalist bullies, freelance racists, hobby cops, sweatshop tycoons, line jumpers, marsupial moms and
aluminum-siding salesmen, misanthropic frat boys, ninj, dittoheads, shrieking midgets, tax cheats, cheese merchants, cat stranglers, pill pushers, nihilists in golf pants, backed-up Baptists, the grand pooh-bahs of Percodan, mouth breathers, testosterone junkies and brownshirts in pinstripes."


I look at those words now, and "cat stranglers" seems excessive to me.

The number of cat stranglers in the ranks of the Republican Party is surely low, and that reference was hurtful to Republicans and to cat owners. I feel sheepish about it.

Monday, May 22, 2006

What's Really Going on in Iraq

** Dahr Jamail's Iraq Dispatches **
** Visit the Dahr Jamail Iraq website http://dahrjamailiraq.com **
** Website by http://jeffpflueger.com **

Jessie Macbeth, a Former Army Ranger and Iraq War Veteran Tells All

This 20 minute interview will change how you view the U.S. occupation of
Iraq forever. I cannot possibly recommend this more highly. An Iraq war
veteran tells of atrocities he and other fellow-soldiers committed
reguarly while in Iraq. I have never seen this level of honesty from a
U.S. soldier who directly participated in the slaughtering of Iraqis.

Excerpts:

"When we were doing the night raids in the houses, we would pull people
out and have them all on their knees and zip-tied. We would ask the man
of the house questions. If he didn't answer the way we liked, we would
shoot his youngest kid in the head. We would keep going, this was our
interrogation. He could be innocent. He could be just an average Joe
trying to support his family. If he didn't give us a satisfactory
answer, we'd start killing off his family until he told us something. If
he didn't know anything, I guess he was SOL."

and

"For not speaking out, I feel like I'm betraying my battle-buddies that
died."

Watch the video here .

Produced by Pepperspray Productions

_______________________________________________
(c)2004, 2005 Dahr Jamail.
All images, photos, photography and text are protected by United States and international copyright law. If you would like to reprint Dahr's Dispatches on the web, you need to include this copyright notice and a prominent link to the http://DahrJamailIraq.com website. Website by photographer Jeff Pflueger's Photography Media http://jeffpflueger.com . Any other use of images, photography, photos and text including, but not limited to, reproduction, use on another website, copying and printing requires the permission of Dahr Jamail. Of course, feel free to forward Dahr's dispatches via email.

More writing, commentary, photography, pictures and images at http://dahrjamailiraq.com

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Thursday, May 18, 2006

Sinners Welcome

Sinners Welcome
By Mary Karr
Harper Collins
New York 2006
Poetry and Essay
$22.95

From an inferno childhood to irreverent Roman Catholic, from alcoholism and agnosticism, writer to piety, is what Sinners Welcome is all about.

If you are not basically interested in poetry, read the final essay first. It is entitled “Facing Altars: Poetry and Prayer.” Karr sets out her improbable conversions with wit and sardonic humor. Then turn to the tough-minded poems about life in the darkness of abuse to glimmers of life and hope and humor found in poetry and religion.

About Jesus’ birth, “He came out a sticky grub, flailing the load of his own limbs….and the sloppy mouth found that first fullness – her milk….” No Santa’s and reindeers at this Christmas message, just reality.

Then read the poem entitled “Miss Flame, Apartment Bound as Undiscovered Porn Star.” The Christian woman reflects on some women – and men and their fantasies.

Here’s Jesus on the Cross. “You hang like that, a sack of flesh with the hard nails of trinity holding you in place.” No mincing of words.

And here is Jesus in the tomb. “He ached for two hands made of meat he could crush the end of. In the corpse’s core, the stone fist of his heart.”

Then back again to life as love and pain. “For years I chose the man to suit the instant, from good guy to goat boy, dreadlocked to crew cut. Not one could bridle me….”

A friend said to Mary Karr on hearing that she had become a Catholic, “Not you on the pope’s team. Say it ain’t so!” Karr replies, “Well, not the late pope’s favorite catholic (nor he my favorite pope.)”

Karr takes her conversion seriously, studied Jesuit prayer and meditation and takes the sacraments regularly. She is a splendid writer who loves the church and finds little contradiction in her criticism of it, her secular life and her deep felt piety. She is a true worldly, humane and devout Christian.

Her poetry is very available, not abstruse or confusing. It is biting, clear, incisive and inspiring. It is good reading right along with the prayers you might read in daily devotions.

Her best selling memoir is The Liar’s Club.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Anti-Semitism and Israel

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Anti-Semitism and Israel

I have taken strong stands against the policies of the Israeli government toward the Palestinians and will continue to do so. Charges of being an anti-Semitic are leveled at almost any critic of Israel and of me too. There is a clear distinction between critics of Israel’s government’s policies and being an anti-Semite.

There are some Jews that I like and some I do not like. If that is anti-Semitism then so be it.

The same of true of the few African-Americans I know, some I like, some I don’t. The same is true for Latinos, Asians, Episcopalians, Mennonites and also men and women. I’ll admit it. I don’t like some of the people I meet and deal with. There are many I like. I am peculiar in many ways but not in that way.

The nation of Israel was created and plunked down in old Palestine where Jews and Arabs have lived and hated, warred and loved each other for centuries. When this new nation was set up for Jews, the Arabs took umbrage. For all kinds of tortured reasons, Israel backed by the United States has the power, wealth and military strength to maintain its position of power and dominance. The Palestinians, a huge portion of them, live in poverty, bondage and resentment.

They hold claim to the same land Israel lays claim to. Each has historical, political and religious beliefs supporting their positions. Some Palestinians have used violence against innocent Israelis to protest their wretched estate. The Israeli government has responded with brutality and sophisticated weaponry to take revenge on suspected so-called terrorists. Negotiations are tried and when they fail each side blames the other in a never-ending blame game and violent revenge. The incredible self-righteousness of both side needs to be excised. Neither side is right or wrong; they are both very wrong and partly right. Only negotiations can work.

In the name of defending Israel, the government has taken land, set up camps, cut off water, hacked down ancient olive trees, destroyed homes, built walls, impeded Palestinian’s travel and murdered suspects, not taking time for trials and punishments. Recently the Israeli Supreme Court has barred many Palestinians from living with their Israeli spouses and children in that country. So much for family values so touted by the U.S. government. Many more Palestinians have died in this conflict than have citizens of Israel.

There are many citizens of Israel who decry their government’s policies. They are seldom mentioned in the American media. Jewish groups in the United States opposing Israel’s policies are under-reported. Then of course any non-Jewish groups or individuals who criticize Israeli policies are easily labeled anti-Semitic.

I know the issues are complex and difficult to solve. However, I will always back the underdog, the poor, hungry and oppressed. That is what I believe to be the way of followers of Jesus. We can exert powers of persuasion by helping the poor.

The United States and the governments of Europe and Asia should make the Israelis and Palestinian leadership sit down and talk and negotiate 24/7. They sit until an agreement is reached for a peace that can work and humanity restored to those warring peoples. . The appalling, stalling, guile and gall of either side refusing to talk until certain conditions are met must be dismissed out of hand. Sit down, talk, negotiate and find a way to peace.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Christian Torture?

Monday, May 15, 2006.

Christian Torture?

No I am not talking about sermons.

I am astounded at my naiveté that Americans don’t do that kind of thing. Germans, Japanese, Russians Koreans and Vietnamese resort to torture. But Americans? NO! Our reputation as a nation was honored because we did not resort to torture. How could this be how could I have been so deluded? United State’s government propaganda has kept from the populace the horrors of nice Americans torturing people. Our tax dollars support American training facilities to teach torture methods to people from all over the world. I guess we give PhD’s in torture

Torture is inflicting pain and suffering on prisoners to obtain confessions or information from persons in captivity.

Why should I have been so surprised to discover fallen people torture each other?
Didn’t the Roman soldiers torture Jesus? Didn’t Christian Dominicans torture people to save their souls from heresy and damnation? Didn’t the Puritans torture alleged witches to gain confessions?

War movies showed Americans, Jews and women being tortured by our enemies. We never saw Americans torturing our enemies. Now it is all coming out. The present incumbent of the White House even justifies such horrific behavior. Scholars tell us the information and confessions received from torture are seldom worth anything. Jailhouse confessions where torture is proved are routinely thrown out of court.

People killed, wounded, tortured, gassed, beaten, brutalized are very popular forms of entertainment in movies, TV and plays. Children’s video games provide happiness to youngsters helping good guys kill bad ones. As a boy, I relished playing cowboys and Indians, cops and robbers and using toy weapons to kill and maim. I loved causing pain and death to my imaginary enemies.

A statement by the American Government told a U.N. watchdog committee that “all U.S. officials – including intelligence agents-are barred from using torture in interrogating terror suspects and other prisoners.” (SF Chronicle 5/8/09 p. A12) This is sure proof that the United States Government approves of torture. Our government lies regularly so I disbelieve any statement from the government. I assume it false, regularly.

I suppose I will believe the government when it shuts down the School of America at Ft. Benning, Georgia, where the doctorates in torture are offered. It has been re-christened The Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation. “The institute has trained Latin American military and police forces in counterinsurgency warfare for more than 60 years. Numerous graduates have been involved in documented human rights abuse including rape, torture and massacre of innocent civilians in Latin America.” (SF Chronicle, April 20, 2006) San Francisco Roman Catholic priest Louis Vitale is in prison for demonstrating against the institute. Last November he joined 19,000 people at the gates of the fort in solemn vigil. He went inside the fort and was arrested.

What torture methods, you might ask? Forced nakedness, stress positions and threats; waterboarding, where prisoners are strapped to a plank and dunked into water until nearly drowning; are all popular methods. Also taught are beatings, pulling out fingernails, battering the bottoms of the feet and burning with cigarettes. But of course these are now announced forbidden, but are they still used anyway?

Just think, some nice American citizen, probably a Christian, sat down and devised these little horrors, thought them through, planned how they might work and then carried them out in the name of democracy when they caught someone. That is the American way these days.

Pity the poor American soldier captured by enemies who knows their fellow soldiers are tortured by Americans. This was why treaties were made between governments, to protect prisoners from such retributive torture.

What about us Christians? Where do we stand about torture? Some us believe that our fundamental belief in love and compassion, as followers of Jesus, makes us be unalterably opposed to torture. We believe in the” dignity of every human being.” We oppose the indignity foisted on others by the degradation and humiliation of torture.

I hope every layperson, priest and Bishop of our church speaks out against the use of torture by our military forces, FBI, CIA and all law enforcement agencies of our country. I hope we will continues to call for an end to the ultimate torture of war, which kills and maims mostly innocent civilians.

We have a new Bishop, Marc Andrus, in this Diocese of California We can urge him to use his position to lead the way in shaping and speaking out about our Christian morality and duty in the social and political sphere, especially to end torture.

Here are some websites about torture:

National Religious Campaign Against Torture www.nrca.org

Pax Christi www.paxchristiusa.org

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Sex Life of Jesus

People were shocked, angered and amazed many years ago when Malcolm Boyd, priest and author, proclaimed, “Jesus had a penis.” I must say that I had never thought of Jesus that way and immediately said, “Why of course.”

The little we know of Jesus includes an educated guess that he was a thirty year old Jewish man raised in and faithful to his religion. He was full of the teachings of the law and prophets found in the Old Testament. He worked as a carpenter or, as one scholar has said a cabinetmaker, before he began his ministry. He became an itinerant preacher and healer who was executed by a cabal of Roman and Jewish leaders in the first years of the first century.

Did he ever have sex? Did he masturbate as a child and teen-ager, did he neck and pet with the young girls, did he marry, have children, was he gay? Did he have any kind of sex life? The New Testament accounts tell us nothing of his personal or sexual life. There is no evidence that he married. But this is rather odd as Jewish men of that era were expected to marry and have children as part of the family life that depended on large families to help bring in money to support the family especially the elderly, women and children, the dependents.

Going past the concrete evidence that we have, let’s be practical and use our heads as well as our imaginations. He was a man of his times. As he grew up, he masturbated and had wet dreams like most all teenage boys did and do. He lusted after the girls and young women in his community. He did marry; it was an arranged marriage with a virgin chosen by his father. After a rather brief romantic interlude, he and his wife had some children. He worked with his father as a woodworker, leaving his wife to tend the house and care for the children. He had intercourse with his wife on an irregular basis as custom and his work allowed. He had several children. He was a rough and attentive father not given to being a pal to his kids. He trained the boys to be carpenters. Sex was as natural as breathing to Jesus and not the preoccupation it is for men now.

While there is absolutely no evidence that Jesus was heterosexual, the chances are he was. Homosexuality as we know it was against the Jewish law and any urges in the direction of same gender sex were suppressed. Same gender sex could be punishable by death. The incredible land ownership policies and brutally high taxes forced Jesus and his family to live in miserable poverty. There was little time for sexual experimentation.

Of course Jesus had a sex life, as a Jewish man of his time, to marry and have intercourse and produce children was just the way it was. That he left his home and family to preach and teach was what was truly unusual. The knowledge that Jesus was not celibate but a sexual being makes him all the more believable and human and accounts for his compassion and love.

Jesus and our Sex lives today.

Since Jesus was a man of his time, his ideas of sex today would reflect today's times. He would say:

God created our bodies and our sexuality. Enjoy them both to the fullest.

It is no longer necessary to be married to have sex as we can control diseases and unwanted births. Enjoy your sexuality with willing partners.

If you marry be faithful to your spouse. If the love and caring die; divorce and try again, learning from your previous mistakes.

God made many people desire to be sexually intimate with people of the same gender. Enjoy the love and sex in those relationships.

Tell the truth about your sexual wants, needs and desires to your partners.