Cromey Online

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

Sunday, February 28, 2010


Luke 13:31-35

Some Pharisees came and said to Jesus, "Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you." He said to them, "Go and tell that fox for me, 'Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.' Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, 'Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.'"

The Pharisees say to Jesus, “Herod wants to kill you.” No mincing of words here. They have a clear message, you are going to die.

Jesus calls Herod, the political leader, a Fox. He is a name caller. He is specific, concrete, never abstract. Herod is sly, cruel and preys on the weak. He does not say Herod is a bad guy. He calls him a name, a fox.

Jesus heals people and gives exorcisms. That is his job, his work, his vocation. He doesn’t say, “I’m working.”

Greg the the mathematician stares off into space for an hour. His wife yells at him, “What are you doing?” Greg says, ‘I’m working.” His wife may have been more satisfied if he had said, “I am working on a spatial math problems in my head.”

Jesus doesn’t say, “I’ll leave soon.” He says, “I’m out of here in three days.” Not one, not two, but three days.

A man says to his lover, “I just need some space.” Here we have vague, non-specific communication. He really means he is angry with his lover, or he is feeling guilty about something. He is thinking of leaving. By being vague and non-specific, he avoids the truth. We allow people to be vague. We need to be able to ask for specific information. We can be honest enough to be plain spoken and clear.

Politicians- “We are fighting terrorism. “ That is vague, unclear and open to restrictions of our human rights. President Obama does not use War on Terrorism. He is fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan. I still don’t like it but he is clear and specific.

Bad attitude- Vague, non-specific. I had a parish administrator who had a bad attitude. When he was harassed he would ask hurriedly. “What now?” So I made it a mantra and would repeat “What now?” Whenever I heard him do that, I'd repeat it “What now?”

“You make me happy” sounds very nice when someone says it to us. But that is so vague. What are the specifics of what makes you happy? You make me happy when you bring me flowers. You make me happy when you kiss me. You make me happy when you make an apple pie for us. The concrete specific items are really what make you happy.

Jesus predicts that he is going to die in Jerusalem. Jesus expresses his yearning and sadness. He gives a beautiful, concrete specific image to Jerusalem, He says, “How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” This is his picture of what God wants us to be, a family, gathered together under God’s loving protection. This is an image of the peaceable kingdom. The peace that passes all understanding.

So when we are dismissed with the cry, “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.” We hear an abstraction. Our question must always be HOW?

Immigration, medical care for all, poor people, hungry in the alleys around the church. Serving the lord means specifically serving those people and our beloved families, friends and neighbors. Do something concrete and specific today to love and serve the Lord.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


I took my blonde eighteen-year old granddaughter Mary Charlotte and her dark-haired high school friend Philene to the Vigil for Peace and Justice recently. I asked them if they really wanted to go or were they just being polite. They seemed eager. It was a cold cloudy day on the corner of Golden Gate and Larkin Streets in San Francisco. The austere glass and metal Federal Building stood thirty-five stories behind us. Across the Street stood the fifty-story California State building, gray, casting dark shadows on the sidewalk where we held signs. One read No War in huge black letters. Others read, Imagine a Department of Peace, It’s Not Over ‘til the Killing Stops, Quaker Witness for Peace, Episcopal Peace Fellowship, No Tax Dollars for War, No More Blood for Oil and Bring Home Our Troops.

The three of us stood on the Larkin Street sidewalk facing the traffic coming up the one way street going north toward California Street and on to toward the Bay. Twenty cars and trucks stopped for the red light. When it changed to green the vehicles roared past and we raised our signs, shook them at the oncoming traffic. Most ignored us, some gave a thumbs up, a V sign and a couple the finger. A number honked and that reminded other to honk also. Red ones and yellow ones and black ones and the orange ones, then the little ones and the big ones and they all drove by just the same. There was a pause and then more cars and trucks slammed past getting our signs wagged in the faces behind the windshields.

The girls were nervous at first, then they began to chat with each other and when the red two-decker sightseeing buses came by we all waved our signs vigorously and sometimes got a nod from the tourists.

I pointed out to Mary Charlotte and Philene some of the other twenty people holding signs. There is Lois, short, stocky, with only one tooth and a pronounced limp wearing a bright red hat. She comes every Thursday, rain or shine. Janet is a retired attorney living in a senior residence. Steve is a 6’6” attorney who leads seminars on non-violent tactics in demonstrations. Larry is a retired union man. Rhonda is a retired parochial school teacher. Her husband Frank was a railroad engineer. Kenneth is a priest who recites his rosary silently. Barbara often bakes cookies and brings them to us on Thursday. Marilyn’s son was wounded in Iraq. Thomas and Jimmy were in the military and are members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. One had been a submarine commander. Sr. Maggie is a sister of he Community of St. Francis. I am proud to say that on any given vigil day Episcopalians are the largest group attending.

Young bottlebrush trees line Golden Gate Avenue with their red bristles often in bloom. Green plants try to give color and beauty to the ominous John Burton Federal Building. Burton would have vigorously opposed the Iraq and Afghanistan wars were he still alive.

The teen girls were exhilarated by the experience. Grandpa Robert was thrilled that they were willing to try a new adventure in the never-ending fight for peace and justice in the world. My hope is they may continue to take a personal stand as they finish High School and go off to College.

We who seek justice will have to do justice to all. -Gandhi

Sunday, February 21, 2010


The small procession walked down 16th Street to the BART station in San Francisco. Two brown wooden candleholders with candles lit, a wooden cross of Jesus carried by little David Smith-Tan. Incense billowed in the wind from the brass-gold thurible. Black clad lay people and clergy walked quietly toward the grubby street corner. Passers by ignored them, smiled, look startled and some joined in.

The corner denizens include drug dealers and buyers, men and women selling themselves, drunks and homeless people, some with shopping carts filled with recyclables and belongings, two in wheel chairs and some asking for spare change. But most of the people at 5:00 PM on Ash Wednesday were hurrying down into BART to get home. Others emerged from the station after a days work to get home to families and friends. It is a perfectly safe area unless you are buying or selling sex or drugs.

Episcopal Priests, Gloria Del Castillo, John Kirkley, and Richard Smith read a brief passage of scripture and the confession and absolution in English and in Spanish. “This is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of lent. All are welcome to receive ashes.” A bus roared by. Pigeons dropped. Newspapers blew in the wind.

People came forward to receive the ashes, hearing “Dust thou art and to dust thou shalt return” as the sign of the cross in black ash was placed on foreheads. Some came haltingly, some unsure, some embarrassed and some with a smile. The sound of the BART rumbled from below. One man came up the escalator from the station below, glanced over, and walked right to a priest, without missing a beat, pushed his head forward, received the ashes and walked quickly away without a nod. Most said thank you or amen. Some 400 people received ashes that day.

A burly, serious looking policeman surveyed the goings on. He politely refused ashes.

One young woman came up to Fr. John and asked for a blessing. He talked with her for few minutes. She was close to tears. He gently offered some words of assurance and invited her to come to St. John’s on Sunday.

My eighteen-year-old blonde granddaughter was visiting from Andover, MA. She is a member of Christ Church, Andover, a large comfortable suburban parish. She was excited to go to the BART station service. She came with her dark-haired friend Philene. Mary Charlotte is very interested in the church and is the Youth Member of the Council of the Diocese of Massachusetts. She and Philene received the ashes and were most interested to see some of the important ways the church ministers to people of the inner city. I am delighted with her enthusiasm and excitement in the Episcopal Church.

I am endlessly proud of our parish of St. John the Evangelist, which with limited resources, ministers so effectively to the heterogeneous people of he Mission District of San Francisco.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Sunday, February 14, 2010

To the Editor of Books:

I have not a scintilla of doubt that anti-Semitism is still virulent in the United States, the Middle East and the rest of the world. (The Lethal Obsession by Robert S. Wistrich, 2/14/10) I do resent the notion in Bruce Bramlett’s review that casual conversation, church, academic and diplomatic negotiations is evidence that a “genteel anti-Semitic discourse is becoming acceptable.”

The constant barrage by the holocaust industry of movies, TV shows and books deadens people’s sensitivity to the horrors of that terrible event. Powerful Jewish lobbies have silenced political debate on criticism and funding of Israel’s war machine and anti-Palestinian legislation. American politicians fear the loss of Jewish money and support.

Since there is no national debate on these issues, only casual conversation, church and academic and diplomatic are acceptable or possible at this time in the United

States. This is not anti-Semitism; this is healthy discussion, talking about what is not politically correct.

Robert Warren Cromey

San Francisco

Here are the responses to my letter to Chronicle Books.

Robert, I love you. You do step in where angels fear to tread. Keep on keeping on. The world is surely better for your voice.


Thank you. The problem is that the Jewish homeland is Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Germany, Hungary, France, the Ukraine, Russia and the Baltic states. Not some strip of land held by other semites for the last 2000 years and appropriated for use by a nervous and guilty post-war Anglo-American alliance.

Granted, the overwhelming urge was to right a wrong, but that urge has historically created such things as the adjective "balkanized" and French Huguenots fleeing to Germany under cover of night, only to be rejected a generation later.

What a world.

Robert, thanks for this. It is very difficult to discuss these issues for fear of hurting the feelings of one's Jewish friends and colleagues, or worse, raising the specter that one is anti-Semitic. Of course this sensitivity is all too understandable and has all too much historic precedent, but still we must be able to disagree about issues on the merits of the arguments and not on arguments that are essentially ad hominem.

Excellent letter, Robert

Thoughtful letter, Robert! Keep up the good work.

I thought yesterday's 2nd lesson was a bit anti-semitic.

Your comment "The constant barrage by the holocaust industry of movies, TV shows and books deadens people’s sensitivity to the horrors of that terrible event" is really hitting right-on. Very concise. I agree with your letter entirely. Not a surprise, I guess.

This is not anti-Semitism; this is healthy discussion, talking about what is not politically correct.

Oh, I agree. I am pro Israel but infuriated by the injustice of the illegal occupation of land that belongs to the Palestinians. I believe the political leadership in Israel, in violation of the wishes of many Israeli citizens, does not want a Palestinian state and will do everything it can to prevent that peaceful resolution of the problem. I also am angry at our government for not forcing both sides to adopt the two-state solution.

I couldn't agree with you more.

Because I deplore the horrific circumstances caused by the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory, I've been called "anti-Semitic" by some of my Jewish friends. They seem to have forgotten the dehumanization, torture and murder against them by the Nazis.

Monday, February 01, 2010

On Being a Christian by a Teenager

“Oh... so you’re a Jesus freak? How do you have any fun?” has not been an entirely uncommon phrase for me to hear throughout high school. My freshman year in high school, I was elected to become a member of the Diocesan Youth Council (DYC) of the Episcopal Church of Massachusetts. This was, and still is, a significant event in my life, because it meant I would be the representative of the youth in my area for the entire state of Massachusetts in the church. It also meant that I was on a committee of people who plan and facilitate retreats for youth all over the diocese. In short, it meant I spent a lot of weekends telling my new high school friends “Sorry, I can’t hang out, I have a church thing”.

The standard of my community, Andover, Massachusetts is that religion is unimportant, ambiguous, and generally not discussed by the youth. While there are plenty of devout and faithful worshippers, the overwhelming majority of people use their house of worship as a location for their social gatherings, and do not consider the spirituality of other people to be an important characteristic. Plenty of Andover residents do not attend any form of worship regularly, and prefer to exist in a secular society.

It is not a community where religious people are discriminated against, but they are certainly not asked to elaborate on any of their ideals or beliefs. I am a very religious person, and I hold myself to a very high standard when it comes to issues of morality and faith. However, I am also a very outgoing and social person, which is a combination commonly deemed “not possible” by many high school students. The common assumption is that all people who have a specific faith focus on nothing but their beliefs, and the only way to be social is to remove yourself from issues of ethics and religion, and simply to be known as “cool”.

However, when a person is as involved in their religion as I am, it is impossible to develop a relationship with said person without discussing the religion at times. Since freshman year, when I was afraid to explain to my friends exactly what I did on the weekends, I have developed into a more confident and open individual. My faith is a critical aspect of my life, and I that now have overcome my uneasiness around the idea of discussing it, I feel I have broken out of the mold that the under-eighteen community of Andover has set for the citizens. I have established my own freedom of speech in this society, where religion is a moot point for many.

While many of my peers ignore religion altogether, I love discussing ideas and concepts from various faiths, not simply my own. A common saying is that there are only two things one should never discuss in a social setting: religion and politics. However, some of the best conversations I have had with those around me involve religion, and I treasure these conversations. The way I explain my idea of openness about faith is with the quote “and life was a light that shined in the darkness, and the darkness could not overcome it” from Saint John’s gospel.

There is no point in having a hidden light, because it will shine through the darkness regardless of your actions. Society could be substantially more understanding of the average religious person if people were willing to discuss their beliefs, but I have faith in the believers to overcome the oppression, and educate the world about the various forms of grace in their lives. As I have developed into an adult, I have been able to overcome the tension felt in Andover from having a religious viewpoint due to my own perspective on sharing information.

This was written by my granddaughter Mary Charlotte Buck, 18 years old.