Cromey Online

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

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Location: San Francisco, California, United States

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Reflections by an Amateur Non-Economist

The nation is in the biggest financial crisis since the great depression and fall of the stock market in 1929. The mortgage industry has collapsed causing the fall of the stock market. Loans are hard to get. The government is trying to bail out failing financial institutions. “Socialism for the rich” is what the late John Henry Galbraith has called it. Big business wants no control so it can play ball in free market capitalism. But when BB gets in trouble it wants the government to help it out of the difficulties it has gotten it self into.

We are OK as we are both retired. The Church Pension Fund has a ten billion dollar portfolio so I expect my monthly check is OK. So far Social Security is table. Ann's pension is in stocks and bonds so that may waiver a bit but we are OK. I suspect that most Americans and we will ride this out without undue suffering. At least that is my fondest hope.

This crisis goes to the root of human nature. Many people believe that we are born pure and innocent and then are damaged and corrupted by the wicked world. My belief is that human nature is deeply flawed to begin with. We are born with a basic inclination to self-preservation, which never really leaves us. We all want to do good but we don’t do it. We all want to avoid doing bad things but we do them anyway. We will do anything to protect and enhance our self-interest. To put it another way we are radically imperfect.

But there is the other side of human nature. At the same time we are imperfect we have a drive toward love and compassion. These two sides of our nature are in constant tension. In raising children we adore our children and their behavior causes us to be angry and punishing. We fall wildly in love in love with our partners and we can be hostile, mean and unfaithful. We want to be honest and profitable in our businesses and we lie, cheat and steal sometimes. The good and the bad are there in us all the time. The truly mature human being knows about these warring tendencies and is in control of them.

I think the mortgage brokers, stock brokers and government employees are no better or worse than the rest of us. They are a combination of good and evil. They love their spouses and children. Many enjoy their work and want to make money to live well and be responsible citizens. Then greed, the desire for a little or a lot more, comes into play. Temptation comes, risks become exciting, and there is even the possibility of great wealth. Sometimes it pays off and lots of money is made. This will always happen for a few people. The risks are worth it.

“When I make lots of money, then I can give lots of it away.” That is true and many wealthy people do just that. Some don’t.

Free market capitalism doesn’t work because it does not take into account the fact that people are as bad as they are good. People are as greedy as they are generous. Destroying competition, evading taxes, hostile take-overs, and endangering and underpaying workers are some of the evils of capitalism. Free market capitalism always leaves a good number of people at the bottom of the economic heap, hungry, homeless, sick and degraded.

Controlled capitalism is the system we have in the United States now. Congress had done many things to control rampant runaway capitalism and its abuses. They have allowed labor unions to exist to demand better working conditions and pay for employees. Until recently there was strong legislation in place to control some of the abuses of people playing the stock market. The government controls farm, energy and communication policies.

Only the government is big and strong enough to assure that all Americans have adequate medical care. Capitalism has failed in providing medical care to millions of American men, women and children. The fear of “socialized medicine” has given pause to real comprehensive medical care for us all. I think the government must get more deeply involved to assure widespread medical care for all.

Our business and political leaders are imperfect, a combination of good and bad. They are doing their best in a difficult and complex financial world. They have trouble keeping their allegiances straight. What is good for the country, the economy, the party, the world, the ecology and their families?

We love a simple-minded blame game. It is the Republicans, the Democrats, the Unions who are to blame is the usual way. A more realistic way is to get past the blame game to what is the best way to move forward, make changes and keep our country healthy. We need an attitude of trust, that in getting the facts and solutions we need we can live comfortably in a world where human being are imperfect and good at the same time.


Monday, September 29, 2008

Ideas for Young Adult Ministry

Clergy Conference Reflection

Bishop Andrus noted the decline in membership in the Episcopal Church in the Bay Area. If it continues the church will not be viable institution in another ten years. He is betting that “area ministries,” the banding together of group of churches in specific areas will help the churches and institutions there in becoming stronger and become more visible. The churches south of Market in SF have made a beginning at this. St. John the Evangelist, Holy Innocent’s, Good Samaritan (Hispanic) St. Gregory’s and The Franciscan Brothers have had a couple of meetings and are sponsoring a blessing of the animals in Dolores Park on October 5.

The Bishop also made a call for the church to reach out to young adults. (Another of the retired clergy and I agreed that we have heard that call by our Bishops since the 1950’s at least.)

Young adults will be attracted to our church when the clergy and lay people get deeply involved in the issues that affect their lives. War and protesting war is one important issue. They are the cannon fodder and they know it. Our churches should be centers of supporting students to become conscientious objectors. I suggest we teach out youth groups on how to resist war, resist getting drafted and show how being a Christian is a matter of being against killing including the death penalty and war.

If I were designing programs to attract young adults, I would get a bunch of them together and ask them what interests them and what would help them?

I’d suggest the following:

A Positive View of Drug Use
Positive Drinking – Invite a bar tender to speak to the group
Sex Positive Human Sexuality – invite a sex worker
Dating 101 - How to find a date or partner.
LGTB Welcome here.
Is Marriage necessary?
Couples Communication Workshop
Couples Counseling
Channeling Anger
Working for Peace
Working to Saving the Planet
What can you do to help the Hungry and Homeless.
How to Avoid Trouble at Dance Clubs
A Positive View of Pornography- Invite a porn star
How to get long with your Parents.

And on and on.

I think social action and a real interest in the lives and needs of young adults are very important ways to attract and hold young Christians to their faith and to the church.

Freedom of the Pulpit Asserted

Monday, September 29, 2008

To the Editor of the SF Chronicle:

A few bold clergy are fighting against the government’s laws interfering with the practice of religion. (SF Chronicle 9/29/08) Pastors are supporting candidates for President of the United States from their pulpits. The IRS, an arm of the government, may cause churches to lose their tax-exempt status for involving itself in supporting candidates. That threat is the government interfering with the right of free speech for clergy. The clergy involved are very conservative and generally support the Republican candidate. While I totally disagree with their choice, I heartily support them in fighting for their right to freedom of speech from the pulpit. We liberal clergy can be thankful to these ministers who know something about the Bill of Rights.

Monday, September 22, 2008


From my journal, September 19, 2008

It is close to 9:00 AM and KDFC is about to start its Mozart in the Morning show. I hesitate to put it on and listen, as I fear they will play for the 10,000th time the Mozart Piano Concerto used in the movie Elvira Madigan years ago.

This morning they are presenting Mozart’s Violin Concerto # 2, they say it is one of the all-time favorites violin concerti of the five he wrote. It sure does sound overly familiar.

Listening to KDFC is infuriating. They play over and over again some popular orchestral and instrumental pieces. They patronize us listeners by telling us they are an “Island of Sanity” in the midst of the busy working world. The keep telling us they are here to help us relax and be calm.

They are a very profitable station, which means they have endless commercials. Some are loud and raucous making the relaxing music a joke as they jolt us back to reality with a screaming commercial about Mervyns, Toyota or some over damned fool thing I’d never buy just because they advertise in so shrilly a screech. Then there are the stupid dialogues about which is the best bank or cheapest cell phone. Idiot talking mouths saying dopey things are very inspiring. I push the off button the moment I hear such palaver.

Then there are the idiotic disclaimers spoken so fast one can’t possibly understand them even if one had the slightest interest. Hearing that makes me, oh so confident, that the product has value and safety. Yeh.

Then there is the morning weather, time, news and music annoying and boring program. Ah, some nice music and calm to start the day. But no we have cutesy comments between the “boys” and “girls” between the repetitious weather and road conditions. All that plus the commercials give us a silly start to the day. I snap on a CD to do the trick instead of listening

It seems like any time I turn on the radio to listen to music there is a commercial going on. I do like that they play a couple of pieces and then some commercials but they sure are annoying.

Then they now are in the habit of playing bits of symphonies or concerti to keep the music short and sweet, sugary and insipid. They do play full- length pieces in the evenings, Sunday mornings and other times.

The Sacred Concert on Sunday has been stripped to two hours instead of three. The masses and requiems played have become repetitious and boring. I have suggested they play hymns and shorter anthems once in a while and was told they have a format they stick to. On Sunday mornings, therefore, from 7:30 to 8:00 we switch to KOIT to listen to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, where some fine hymns and organ music of great variety are available.

I suspect that my criticisms of KDFC will not be heeded, as I am too old for their market focus.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Dear Bill Lueth,

After reading the rant I sent to you, my wife Ann emailed me the following cryptic message. “Big grouch,”

Here is some positive feed back for your station and your work.

I really appreciate the sacred music on Sunday mornings. It is a wonderful listen to start my Sunday.

I like that I do hear some unusual and different music from time to time when I do tune in.

I am glad there is some classical music available most of the time.

All good wishes to you and your work.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

President as CEO

To the Editor of the SF Chronicle:

Carly Fiorina, former HP leader, has given us good news. 
McCain and Obama are not CEO material. (SF Chronicle 9/17/08) 
The publicized records of Chief Executive Officers are rife with greed, 
gross salaries and short term goal thinking. The next president of the 
United States must be concerned with the welfare of all the 
people of the country and the world. He needs to be
harbinger of peace and not unbridled competition. 
The next president has to be, not a CEO concerned about profits, 
but a person of great vision and selfless dedication to finding 
mutual ways for nations to work with each other.

(not published)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

tax whores and dealers

September 16, 2008

To the Editor of the SF Chronicle:

Our California political leadership can't find enough money to pay our bills. (SF Chronicle, 9/16/08)
It is not popular to raise taxes among the citizenry nor businesses.

How about taxing those who presently earn enormous amounts of money in our capitalistic, free enterprise system but pay no taxes?

Prostitution and the drug trade are billion dollar industries in California. Legalizing those businesses would bring in huge amounts of tax dollars that presently are not paid in those free trade professions. Courts and prisons would no longer be choked with hookers and pushers thus saving even more money. Police would be freed to fight real crime. Medical costs would be reduced because emergency rooms and public hospitals would not be filled with the gunshot wounded and sexually transmitted diseased.

(not published)

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Freedom of Speech for Clergy

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

To the Editor of the SF Chronicle:

55 liberal clergy want the IRS, an arm of the Congress, to stop clergy from endorsing or opposing political candidates. (SF Chronicle, September 9, 2008) Have these clerics not read the first Amendment to the U.S. Constitution? It reads in part “Congress shall make no law…prohibiting the free exercise thereof (religion); or abridging the freedom of speech….”

These liberal clergy want rules and laws passed restricting the free exercise of religion and abridging their free speech. They oppose the Alliance Defense Fund, which says, “Pastors have the right to speak about Biblical truth from the pulpit without fear of punishment.” The Alliance Defense Fund wants to endorse or oppose candidates for political office. I also believe freedom of speech and religion mean the rights of clergy to endorse or oppose candidates from the pulpit.

I am more liberal and radical than most people I know. I even oppose what most of the conservative clergy stand for. In this election they want to oppose candidates who are pro-abortion, stand for gay rights and Democrats running for president. I take the complete opposite view.

Yet I believe in the freedom of the pulpit, free speech and do not want Congress or the IRS essentially telling me what I can say from the pulpit. I believe my liberal colleagues are committing spiritual suicide by urging the government to interfere in what the clergy may say from the pulpit.
Liberal clergy are so fearful of offending their conservative members, losing money and causing trouble, that they remain silent as their rights are violated. I recall the silence of the German clergy in the rise of Nazism and the holocaust.

(let's see if they publish it.)

Wednesday, September 03, 2008


I hate hearing the words “The Jews” in our liturgy, especially as used in John’s gospel and more especially during Holy week and the post Easter lections in Year A. A glance at the gospels in the King James Version beloved of conservatives, evangelicals, Pentecostalists, Mormons and purist language lovers reveals the shrill anti-Semitic sounding passages there.

I cringe when I hear the words “The Jews.” I always think not of Jesus betrayed by his Jewish friends, accused by his Jewish co-religionists and suffering and dying on the cross; I think of the holocaust, pogroms, and the inquisition. I think of my Jewish college roommate denied access to the fraternities on campus and the rampant discrimination against Jews in my family and in the United States, still in too many places.

Some people think the Jews killed Jesus and therefore Jews should be punished even today. According to the New Testament, a coalition of Jewish religious, leaders in the time of Jesus influenced the Roman authorities to crucify Jesus, the Jewish itinerant rabbi, preacher and prophet. What twisted reasoning still persists that because some Jews, two thousand years ago, in a culture, land and ethos so different from ours, still blame present - day Jews for Jesus’ death? It is appalling to others and me.

Our church perpetuates that prejudice by the regular use, in a derogatory way, the term “The Jews” in the Bible readings in Sunday and Holy Week readings.

We can certainly understand the fourth gospel’s use of the word. A friend wrote me the following: “(Scholar) Ray Brown's argument is that John's Gospel came from a Samaritan Christian community, so their perspective as outsiders to the community shapes the language.” They saw the Jews as oppressors, the people in power.

In the name of healthy teaching of the history of those times, we can change the liturgical and Biblical language, which perpetuates hate. We can substitute “ancient Hebrews,” “ancient people,” “religious authorities,” or “rulers of the people,” “the crowd” or “the mob” instead of the derogatory and possibly misunderstood use of “the Jews.” Since many churches print Sunday readings out for the pew sitters, the words can easily be changed.

We have no technical right to do this on our own. But if we wait for our Bishop’s permission and Prayer Book revision we will continue to sow prejudice when we use these inaccurate and hate filled anti-Semitic readings. Things change after people act.

Many of us are deeply critical of the Israeli government’s treatment of the Palestinians as well as the United States government’s uncritical support of Israel and the workings of the Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) to defeat candidates for public office who are critical of Israeli politics.
That in no way excuses people for anti-Semitism. If you doubt there is rank anti-Semitism in this country, how come there are no Jews running for the president and vice-president of the U.S., and there has only been one for VP? The majority parties see a Jew as not electable.

The church in its liturgy must strive to lift people’s awareness and consciousness to worship God in Jesus –the Jew. The haranguing of Jews in John’s gospel may be seen in its historical context, but it should not be part of our liturgy, which is to bring us to our true loving humanity as found in Jesus Christ the Jew.

Other comments and suggestions:

Why not just "the people?" That is what I have always said.

Amen and Amen, Since 1975 I have not uttered a liturgical phrase, lesson or gospel reading with "the Jews" in it without clarification or better a substitution e.g. "for fear of the authorities" whom we should all fear; God bless them everyone.

I prefer changing "the Jews" to "the religious authorities" because that is who they were talking about and it challenges the priestly class today -- as it well should.