Cromey Online

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

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Location: San Francisco, California, United States

Thursday, October 29, 2009

No More $ for Israel

Ambassador Maen Areikat’s good letter in today's SF Chronicle reminds us of the Israeli government’s refusal to implement U.N. resolutions on the mistreatment of Palestinians and continually torpedoing prospects for peace. In our time of huge government debt, inadequate medical care and cutting care for the aged infirm, I do not think our country should be sending billions of dollars of aid to Isreal, one of the richest and most powerful countries in the mid-east.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Me Casa, Su Casa – Ridiculous

This Spanish language expression is found on doormats, plaques, bumper stickers and has entered our language as a popular way of expressing hospitality. The fact that it is in Spanish may reflect a cultural norm from its country of origin.

The Old Testament and Koran also in many places make it clear that strangers are to have their feet washed, be welcomed, fed and sheltered. Until recently Christian Churches were regarded as sacred sanctuaries from which persons could not be seized and arrested. That custom has ceased in recent years.

As a young parish priest I was always welcomed into parishioners home just be stopping by and ringing the doorbell. Now we are instructed not to be alone in someone’s home for fear of being accused of sexual harassment.

Dropping by unannounced was once a popular way for neighborhood people to be with each other. “Drop by any time” was always a welcoming expression and well meant.

We have one friend in the city who still says, “Drop by anytime,” and she means it. She adds, if I am free to invite you in or a while, I will. If I am busy, I’ll tell you so.” I do believe her but I have not availed myself of the privilege.

Since I live in a third floor walk-up flat in the heart of San Francisco. Neighbors never drop by and expect to be welcomed. The call first and make a date. Perhaps in suburban and more rural areas people do drop in regularly and informally. But not so in the city. Many apartment buildings are gated and codes are needed to ring the bell for entry. We are vulnerable for robberies and burglaries.

One time while I was rector of Trinity, a parishioner rang the doorbell at midnight and asked to come in spend the night. He was a drug abuser and alcoholic, and as usual a really sweet guy. He was quite drunk and under the influence. I made him wait on the porch while I called the police. They came and took him to a shelter, they said. Here I was his priest and rector, I turned him away. I had a choice, let him in and let him sleep it off. I chose to call the police for help and hope that he would find help and caring from resources that could help him with his basic problems

We are justifiably more wary. If we want to visit with people we make dates and appointments.

Perhaps younger people are more flexible and are will to have friends drop in and have them sleep over. Perhaps they are closer to the idea of me casa, su casa.

I must say that my house is not your house. I love to welcome people to our home, feed and entertain them. By that I mean and expect good conversation, sharing of ideas, concepts, gossip, our personal lives and even problems in an open and direct way. When you come to our home, I expect basic civility, give and take in conversation, not lectures or rants about your favorite new knowledge or jokes – well, one or two maybe.

I want it to be clear you are a guest in my home and behave accordingly.

If we had a larger flat, I would be happy to have you spend a day or two with us as a guest. In many ways I am glad our place is small as having people staying is disruptive to my rather routinized ways.

When my daughters and grandchildren come to San Francisco, we put them up in nearby lodgings and feed them all meals and take them about the city in our cars and let them drive ours. We are delighted always to have them.

Once in a while some family or friends have spent the night on the floor or the couch.

Our home is not your home. I understand the expression to be a sign of welcome and caring for other people and an invitation to our home. Taken literally, it means when you come the house it is yours – mortgage, rent, repairs, food, maintenance, cooking, cleaning, laundry, walking the dog - ad infinitum, reductio ad absurdum, and so on and so forth.

After all that believe it or not, you are indeed welcome to come visit our delightful home in San Francisco. If you like really good wine, bring it. Otherwise you are welcome to our mid-price range offering and a good meal.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Conventioneers Dodge Taxes

Doctors, Lawyers and business executives trek the globe giving lectures or attending conventions. All or parts of the expenses of these trips are written off. That is the euphemism for tax exempt or tax-free. Conventions are held at exotic locations like Hawaii, the Virgin Islands or major tourist cities like San Francisco or New York. Thus, luxury hotels and huge convention centers, like the Moscone Center in San Francisco, profit from the generosity of taxpayers.

High paid professionals using write offs are among the most conservative Americans. They are the most vigorous opponents of medical reform. They are the heartiest proponents of cutting taxes, fostering unregulated capitalism and cutting big government.

They also have lobbies in congress protecting their free or tax exempt rides. These folks are against high taxes yet milk the system for their own travel treks and perks.

When these high rollers come to conventions they spend a lot of money in the locales where they stay. Local communities profit from these write off tripsters. So next time you see a convention goer paying a big tab at a restaurant, ask how much of that bill comes out of your taxes.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Asking for What You Want

Blind Bartimaeus is in Mark’s gospel. He shouts begs and pleads for Jesus to hear and see him. Jesus heals him.

1. My friend John is mad at God for Sally’s death that was slow and painful. How could a good God allow her to suffer so much pain?

John never nurtured his faith and religion. He worshipped his football watching instead. He did not nurture his faith in praise, the sacraments and thanksgiving.

When the crisis came he was ill quipped to handle his wife’s death. He blamed God. He has a childish notion of God.

2, Prayer is asking for what you want. Ask and ask and ask again maybe you’ll get it maybe you won’t. NO is an answer to prayer

Asking for what you want in prayer depends on your ability to be thankful. People who pray, worship and are grateful are best prepared for suffering, pain and sorrow.

3. Personal Relationships. You are entitled to ask or what you want. You are not entitled to get it. You get more from your partner if the relationship is nurtured with praise and thanksgiving. You will get more than what you ask for.

4. We will be asked for our pledge of money this fall at our parish. Thanksgiving is the motive for our giving – for our parish, our community and all the gifts given to us our, life, our eyes and all we have that we did not earn.

5. We need to keep on asking for healing and health insurance for all Americans.

6. Keep on asking, keep on being grateful. And let God’s will be done.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Israel Spies on the US

The United States supports Israel’s existence and sends three billion dollars a year to support that government. Stewart D. Nozette is alleged to have tried to pass national security secrets to the Israeli government. An FBI agent, posing as an Israeli intelligent officer, indicated Nozette was willing to work as a spy for money. The FBI thinks Israel wants to spy on the United States security measures. Now is that a nice way for Israel to treat a country that supports it so fully?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Letter to Republicans

Dear Republican Relatives and Friends,

I write as a Christian of the Episcopal persuasion informed by the teaching of the Old and New Testament. Many of you are members of one church or another. Our common faith arising from the Bible emerges as caring for the poor, the widows, orphans and those in prison. Healing was a high activity in the life of Jesus.

I write as one who benefits from our capitalists system. The Church Pension Fund is one of the most stable and wealthy retirement funds in the country. Ann and I hold modest investments in real estate and the stock market. We are grateful for the income we have from the system and from Social Security and Medicare.

I suspect most of you know that our health care system needs reform as many American children and adults have no health insurance. We are all concerned about what is the best method to bring assistance to those in need.

The president has set in motion a process to bring about health care reform. He too is a Christian and an American who has benefited from our capitalist system. He has set before congress the outline of a plan that Republicans and Democrats in both houses of congress will develop into a final plan for reform upon which they will vote.

Emotions run high on both sides of this issue. I hope the emotion of compassion for the sick and poor will overcome the passion for being right. Christians and capitalists must find a way to better serve all of the people.

I hope you will do all you can to support health care reform this year.


Robert Warren Cromey

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Medical Care for All Costs Money

All Insurance companies, HMOs, some doctors’ organizations and most Republicans can say about medical care for all is that it costs too much, we can’t afford it and we’ll lose money. Yes, making sure that 35 Million uninsured children and adults will cost money. These industries all are in the business of serving the American people, all of the people. These good people have not found a way to do that. Their combined efforts have left millions of Americans without adequate medical care.

It is entirely appropriate that the President of all the people in the United States has set in motion plans that to alleviate the terrible plight of millions of Americans who do not have access to good medical care. Most of the American people are aware of the need and will support plans to provide good medical care for all.

Now that the people who have most to gain from the failure of change have weighed in with huge amounts of money, lobbyists and advertising to defeat any plan. It is now up to the people, the citizens, churches, synagogues, mosques, the teaching, nursing, medical professionals and all of us to badger congress to hold fast to the plan to insure all Americans. Keep on with the letters, phone calls and gifts of money to help our elected officials defeat the pressure groups and vote for adequate medical care for all and pay for it.

Friday, October 09, 2009

On Reading The New Yorker

My best guess is that I have been reading The New Yorker magazine for 50 years. I remember it most from 1980 to the present, 28 years. I read it off and on in the years before that.

I read it because I love all things New York. The liberal positions reflect my own more radical thoughts and feelings. I learn from the economic and political views. I read these carefully while I read newspapers hastily and skimmingly without much trust.

Overviews of politics and governmental issues are very helpful and contribute to my knowledge. I trust the facts and judgments provided by the varied writers.

I never had much interest in economics but I have taken to The Financial Page and it has awakened my interest in the gloomy science.

I enjoy the fiction but I wish they had more stories set in New York City whereas the magazine gives us work from many countries and cultures. Sometimes they are informative but also they are obscure. I have often said, “I like best stories about adultery in Manhattan.”

Occasionally I read a poem but I am impatient with poetry. I like what I read to be obvious to me. I have a slim imagination except for sex, religion, food and gossip. I love to read about people, the good and bad things that happen to them. I learn from their experiences and they often remind me of me.

I love the cartoons, they make me laugh, tweak my sense of the absurd and criticize all the self-righteous pomposities of the human condition. Lawyers, business people, executives, clergy, doctors, rock stars etc. deserve all the exposure to the wit of the fine cartoonists. I like them so much that I use The New Yorker Desk Diary so I get a new cartoon every week.

Now I will be accused by some of being an anti-Semite, but I don’t care. I know I am not. I would make a bet that a huge number of Jews are subscribers to the magazine. Where would business, commerce, the arts, music and culture of New York be without Jews? They clearly and happily have replaced the stuffy, moneyed, wasp aristocracy of the city. The magazine will emphasize things Jews are interested in.

Stories featuring prominent people usually mention if the person is Jewish. Stories of non-Jews seldom mention the person’s religion or ethnicity. Larry Summers is identified as Jewish in the issue of October 12, 2009. In the same issue financier Martin Armstrong’s religion or ethnicity is not mentioned. Frankly, I am interested in people’s backgrounds when they are written about. Those traditions may influence how people act and think.

The New Yorker’s editorial policy on Israel and the Palestinians is very balanced. I sense a slight tipping, not much, but in favor of Israel. I however, think Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians smack of cruelty and apartheid.

I really like the reviews of books. They are plenty long so I get a lot about the background and lives of the authors so that the review of the book’s content has depth. Many's the time I have rushed to the library to read a book based on a review in the magazine.

I tend to skip sport stories, reviews of plays, dance, rock music and opera. When I read them they are fine but I have little or no interest in those areas and prefer not to clutter my mind with what I call extraneous stuff.

I look forward to the arrival of The New Yorker each week and feel sad when I forgot that double issues come along from time to time and I miss my weekly meditation on the magazine.

Thanks The New Yorker for being there.

Robert Warren Cromey is a priest of the Episcopal Church, retired, and has lived in San Francisco since 1962. Born in Brooklyn is a graduate of New York University and The General Theological Seminary in Chelsea, NYC and was ordained in the Cathedral of St. John the Divine also in New York.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Grace Cathedral Search for a New Dean

Ah, for the good old days. Grace Cathedral was packed on the first Sunday of the month when Bishop James A. Pike, Bishop of California was the preacher. He was prophetic, confrontational, wildly humorous and had a great theological and ethical mind. While forcefully advocating civil rights for African Americans, against attempts by the Roman Church to censor movies and books, he helped successfully raise money for the completion of the nave and fleche for the cathedral. He advocated a strong ecumenical church inviting Eugene Carson Blake, head of the Presbyterian Church to preach proposing more unity among the reformation churches. Martin Luther King Jr. twice preached at Grace during Pike’s tenure. He called on the clergy to be as outspoken on social and political issues as he was. He supported them when they got into trouble.

Pike was not the dean but he urged and supported then dean Julian Bartlett to support art shows, a jazz mass led by the late Vince Guraldi, a concert lead by Duke Ellington and other events leading the thinking of the congregation and citizens of San Francisco.

I had hoped that Grace Cathedral would be lead by a dean with that kind of dynamism, creativity, and prophetic ministry. People join and support a church which connects the gospel message of Jesus to the every day life of human beings, the people of God whether they believe or not. We have had an educator, a quiet prophet and a spiritual director. The leadership of the cathedral has found out what the people wanted and them lead them into doing that. Can you imagine Jesus doing that? I know, I know, Jesus didn’t have a fabric to maintain.

Fundamentalist preachers have enormous congregations by relating their understanding of the gospel to people’s concerns. Sadly, the message is anti-homosexual, abortion and chastity before marriage. Our liberal church is concerned for full civil and church freedom for all people, peace, healing, feeding the hungry, housing the homeless and the environment. Sadly, the Episcopal Church and the cathedral have been followers and not leaders in those struggles.

I would hope our next dean would be a leader and not a follower. Here are some issues where we need leadership:

1. Development of a powerful anti-war and peace movement. Establishing a Department of peace to balance the Department of Defense – earlier known as the War Department, which it really is.

2. Leading a movement to change the laws and society that hunger and homelessness cannot happen to people.

3. Following Jesus, the healer, assuring adequate health care for all Americans, immigrants and tourists. Whatever the health care reform accomplishes, much more will need to be done.

Here are some concrete goals that the dean and trustees of the cathedral can embrace that would make the cathedral a place and voice in the city, the nation and the world.

The following excerpts from the present thinking about a new dean are very inward, minding the store, keeping the peace, being nice and fund raising:

In the eighth dean of Grace Cathedral, we are looking for a woman or man who can be many things to many people. It is a tall order. In the process of discernment, we have challenged ourselves to be clear about what the next dean must do and who the next dean must be. The truth is that there isn't a simple answer: this is a complex job in challenging times.

We seek a person who can preach and who can listen. Who can teach and who can lead. Who can create a vision and is comfortable with ambiguity. Who can connect to the least among us and also successfully fundraise among the wealthiest in our community. Who is secure in themselves and can both lead and collaborate.

In the last 20 years, the focus of the Cathedral’s work has been more on “civic conversation” rather than social action.

Planning has been organic rather than strategic. Hands-on work in the community has consistedof meaningful but smaller efforts driven by the interests and energy of individuals, rather than a planned and focused effort by the Cathedral.

Even More Potential to Grow We continue to look at ways to offer opportunities to “grow” spiritually. Grace Cathedral is a place where an intelligent and generous Christianity is practiced.

Communications in Flux As identified earlier, the communications function in the Cathedral is in a state of transition.

In marked contrast to the limitations of budget and staff resources, there is a call and expectation that Grace Cathedral should be leading the charge in embracing new

technologies for communications. Not only should the Cathedral be setting the standard for web outreach for delivery of key messages, but it should also be embracing new media communications processes for development and mission outreach.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Prayer Does Not Work on God

Prayers do not work on God. The Republicans vote against health care reform. The democrats vote for it. If one believes in a personal God that answers our prayers, that is a fickle and confused God.

Since I do not believe in a personal God and I do believe in prayer, my prayers can only work on me

1. When I pray, I have to work to help those people and issues that I pray for. The prayer energizes and focuses me.

2. I believe we are all one in some magical and completely unprovable way. When I pray for my daughters which I do almost every day, I believe and hope that my energy, vibrations, unity connect to her in some woo woo way. Can't prove it.

3. When I had my various surgeries, I knew that family, friends and parishioners were praying for my recovery. Than made me feel supported, loved and cared for. I believe that helped my healing. I have no rational proof of it.

4. I pray that not my will be done, but THY will be done. Whatever power whatever God has, I assume that will is what will happen. In other words we take what we get.

These ideas work for me but I am sure they do not work for everybody.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Health Care and Christian Churches

The Open Forum article on the Christian Morality of Limits (SF Chronicle, Oct.1, 2009) tacitly challenges the Roman Catholic Church, Mormons and conservative fundamentalists. They speak boldly and publicly against the right of same gender people to marry, lesbian/gay rights and abortion. These same churches that say they are followers of Jesus, the healer, fail to support important measures to ensure health care for some thirty-five million children and adult Americans who cannot afford health insurance. These Christian churches are mostly silent on the public issue that will bring health and healing to millions.

The Rev. Robert Warren Cromey

San Francisco, CA