Seventh Column Published on Religious News Site

My seventh column has now been published on Spokane Faith and Values, thanks to editor-in-chief Tracy Simmons.   I wrote it to show how the current combination of a patriotic people who also feel very entitled could easily lead to a spirit of Fascism such as engulfed Nazi Germany in the 30’s.    

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Entitlement and Patriotism 

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Musical Script Available

If anyone wants to read the script to my musical Eden in Babylon, I’ve got it posted right here:

EDEN IN BABYLON (MUSICAL LIBRETTO)

I had been working on some revisions, mainly removing some of the harsher “street language,” so as to increase the likelihood it might be produced at the high school level.   Prior to COVID-19, we began discussing shooting for a high school production, since at that level, there is no taboo against producing large-cast shows.   

As an American musical in the tradition of Rodgers & Hammerstein, Eden in Babylon has a cast of 27, which is fairly large.  This makes it difficult to produce in a world that naturally values economy.   The musical is usually rejected these days on cast size alone, without anyone actually looking at the script.

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I knew this when I was writing it.   But I guess I had a chip on my shoulder.  You see, I like the traditional American musical.  It’s a nice medium between the straight play (Shaw, Albee, etc.) and British Comic Light Opera (such as Gilbert & Sullivan.)  It’s also a uniquely American genre — though perhaps that point can be argued.   

I had this crazy idea that if I used the traditional American musical concept — which is to present life not as it is, but as it ought to be) – and wrote a musical in traditional American musical form, I might just be able to appeal to those who can afford season’s tickets at community or regional theaters — you know, people who enjoy musicals.

And the final Scene definitely does not present life as it is.   But it sure presents it as it ought to be.    So — hope you like my work.   

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Fifth Column Published on Religious News Site

Just to let you know, my story from the previous blog post has been published on the religious news site, Spokane Faith and Values. Here’s a snapshot of an RT from Tracy Simmons, the editor in chief, followed by a link to the story below.

 

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Social Distancing and the Summer of Love to Come

 

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The Summer of Love to Come

In the summer of 1967, a movement generated from the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco evolved into the now famous “Summer of Love.”

I suggest that our current social distancing is the exact opposite of what that Summer of “Love” entailed. And this is not entirely a bad thing.

The form of love that was exalted in that movement was the passionate love known as eros in the language of New Testament Greek. In that same language, three other forms of love are described in different words. But all those words translate to the single English word “love” in modern English — even in the Holy Bible.

This linguistic cluster has created great cultural difficulties. The slogan of the Summer of Love, “Make Love Not War” centered around the notion that the passions involved in destructive acts of war could be more positively channeled through passionate acts of sexual love. So everybody basically took all their clothes off, did a lot of drugs, and thus inaugurated the so-called Sexual Revolution.

The problems that arose from this massive disregard of common sense are obvious. And they linger to this day. What began as “love” morphed into mass jealousy. STD’s were promulgated alongside vicious rumors. Finally, the rate of abortions rose so drastically it propelled a right-wing reaction, pitting those who were “pro-choice” against those who were “pro-life,” in disregard for the realities in which such a toxic dichotomy were rooted.

Now we are faced with an almost opposing challenge. In an atmosphere of social distancing, we will be touching each other much less than before — rather than much more. While this has its own pitfalls, I would suggest that it might also bring unanticipated advantages.

Rather than exult in the false sense of community that spawned a Sixties travesty, let us all turn inward, and reflect in solitude upon our singular purposes, as individuals immersed in a culture that has changed radically overnight.

Maybe this is the time for each of us to get in touch with our own hearts — our own callings — our own life-purposes and destinies. We will serve the community of humanity in a far greater way if we all take some time to reflect, and to find out what each of us — as the unique divinely drafted individuals that we are — is really and truly all about.

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The Writing on the Wall

At that moment the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall, near the lampstand in the royal palace. As the king watched the hand that was writing, his face grew pale and his thoughts so alarmed him that his hips gave way and his knees knocked together.

The king called out for the enchanters, astrologers, and diviners to be brought in, and he said to these wise men of Babylon, “Whoever reads this inscription and tells me its interpretation will be clothed in purple and have a gold chain placed around his neck, and he will be made the third highest ruler in the kingdom.”

So all the king’s wise men came in, but they could not read the inscription or interpret it for him. Then King Belshazzar became even more terrified, his face grew even more pale, and his nobles were bewildered.

Hearing the outcry of the king and his nobles, the queen entered the banquet hall. “O king, may you live forever!” she said. “Do not let your thoughts terrify you, or your face grow pale. There is a man in your kingdom who has the spirit of the holy gods in him. In the days of your father he was found to have insight, intelligence, and wisdom like that of the gods.

Your father, King Nebuchadnezzar, appointed him chief of the magicians, enchanters, astrologers, and diviners. Your own father, the king, did this because Daniel, the one he named Belteshazzar, was found to have an extraordinary spirit, as well as knowledge, understanding, and the ability to interpret dreams, explain riddles, and solve difficult problems. Summon Daniel, therefore, and he will give you the interpretation.”

So Daniel was brought before the king, who asked him, “Are you Daniel, one of the exiles my father the king brought from Judah? I have heard that the spirit of the gods is in you, and that you have insight, intelligence, and extraordinary wisdom.

Now the wise men and enchanters were brought before me to read this inscription and interpret it for me, but they could not give its interpretation. But I have heard about you, that you are able to give interpretations and solve difficult problems. Therefore, if you can read this inscription and give me its interpretation, you will be clothed in purple and have a gold chain placed around your neck, and you will be made the third highest ruler in the kingdom.”

In response, Daniel said to the king, “You may keep your gifts for yourself and give your rewards to someone else. Nevertheless, I will read the inscription for the king and interpret it for him. As for you, O king, the Most High God gave your father Nebuchadnezzar sovereignty and greatness, glory and honor. Because of the greatness that He bestowed on him, the people of every nation and language trembled in fear before him. He killed whom he wished and kept alive whom he wished; he exalted whom he wished and humbled whom he wished.

But when his heart became arrogant and his spirit was hardened with pride, he was deposed from his royal throne, and his glory was taken from him. He was driven away from mankind, and his mind was like that of a beast. He lived with the wild donkeys and ate grass like an ox, and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven until he acknowledged that the Most High God is ruler over the kingdom of mankind, and He sets over it whom He wishes.

But you his son, O Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, even though you knew all this. Instead, you have exalted yourself against the Lord of heaven. The vessels from His house were brought to you, and as you drank wine from them with your nobles, wives, and concubines, you praised your gods of silver and gold, bronze and iron, wood and stone, which cannot see or hear or understand. But you have failed to glorify the God who holds in His hand your very breath and all your ways.

–Daniel 5:5-23

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My Story on Cancel Culture Published in the Spokesman

I had the honor this month of being the guest columnist in the Faith and Values section of the Spokesman-Review, the main newspaper of the city of Spokane, Washington.   The story may be found online here, and a verbatim transcript is below.  

CaptureWhat is cancel culture? In a nutshell, it’s a subculture that consists of people who have eliminated other people from their lives, based on perceptions of their having behaved inappropriately. Those who perform these eliminations also encourage others to eliminate them as well, on the grounds that their offenses are irredeemable, and so no one should have to tolerate them.

None of us particularly relish the futility of arguing against someone’s egregious conduct. But the problems with advocating such a full-fledged “cancellation” of another human being are ultimately more serious than those which arise from that person’s unacceptable behavior in the first place.

On October 29, speaking at an Obama Foundation event, the former president declared: “Among certain young people, and this is accelerated by social media, there is this sense sometimes of: ‘The way of me making change is to be as judgmental as possible about other people’ and that’s enough.”

That’s not activism,” Obama went on. “That’s not bringing about change. If all you’re doing is casting stones, you’re probably not going to get that far.”

It’s interesting that Obama stresses how this phenomenon is propelled by social media. I’ve often been aghast at what people get away with on social media that they couldn’t do in their real, non-wired lives – such as block someone from a group and still participate in that group. In real life, this wouldn’t be possible. You’d either attend the group or not. You wouldn’t be able to simply render yourself invisible to somebody you don’t want to deal with.

But when it comes to cancel culture, people come close to doing just that. Those who have been “cancelled” are not only blocked on social media, but in every aspect of their lives. From that moment on, there is no prospect for redemption on the part of the offenders. They are like condemned buildings, destroyed by the wrecking ball. And who has condemned them? Fallible human beings, who may later find themselves condemned as well.

What about the First Amendment? An open debate over difficult differences is a touchstone of democracy. As Obama said in a speech to college students, as early as 2015: “Anybody who comes to speak to you and you disagree with, you should have an argument with them, but you shouldn’t silence them by saying you can’t come because I’m too sensitive to hear what you have to say.”

What is at the root of such a twisted culture? In a certain light, it can be seen as just another instance of our human urge to seek personal glory at the expense of the greater good. When someone succeeds in calling out an adversary, of course that person feels exalted. As Obama explained: “If I tweet or hashtag about how you didn’t do something right or used the wrong verb, then I can sit back and feel pretty good about myself.”

The idea of removing others from our sight is not something that serves humanity on the whole. It’s self-serving. And it’s been around for a long time. People used to be “banished” in the Middle Ages. Even today, how often do we walk past scores of homeless people on the sidewalks, and act as though they don’t exist?

In my view, we could all open our eyes just a little bit more, and start doing the small things for others that will gradually help us to rebuild a broken society. If we don’t, historically speaking, something will happen to open our eyes for us. And those events have not normally been very pretty.

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