Anecdotal Evidence .

Saturday, October 29, 2022

 Letter to Bangor (Maine) Daily News
October 29, 2022

I write in response to Senator Susan Collins' statement concerning the attack on Paul Pelosi: “I am horrified by this vicious attack on Paul Pelosi at his home.  My prayers are with him, Speaker Pelosi, and their family.”

That's it? Almost sounds like what horrifies our Senator is not so much the attack itself but that it was "at his home". And no mention of the self-evident political motive?

Of course Collins knows, as you know and all your readers know, the target of this attack was not Paul Pelosi. It was Nancy Pelosi, and the motive was political. This was not an ordinary attack by a criminal breaking into someone's home to steal stuff. It was a vicious attack on the Speaker of the House of Representatives, on America itself, like the January 6 coup attempt. And like the January 6 coup attempt, it was motivated by noise from Donald Trump and the "new" Republican Party whose number includes, regrettably but effectively, the silence of others.

This morning, Heather Cox Richardson writes, "Today, the Department of Homeland Security, FBI, National Counterterrorism Center, and U.S. Capitol Police warned of violent extremism surrounding the upcoming midterm elections, including attacks on 'candidates running for public office, elected officials, election workers, political rallies, political party representatives, racial and religious minorities, or perceived ideological opponents.'”

And so I ask you, I beg you, please write something about this BEFORE November 8.

If Mainers, if Americans anywhere, cannot go to polling places without fear of politically motivated violence, then many will stay home. And then, God help us, trump will have made his lie true: Elections in America are rigged ... by him.

Your statement need not be political. Simply forcefully urge Mainers not to be afraid to vote, and, in the same breath, quoting the 
Department of Homeland Security, powerfully urge local and state law enforcement in Maine to protect polling places on November 8 ... as opposed to waiting to collect forensic evidence after violence has occurred.

Monday, October 10, 2022

In the name of God?

I am flabbergasted by the varied news stories, left and right, reporting the ease with which America’s Christian community is embracing the values of the “new” Republican Party which, by its own disguised admission, is discarding many of the principles taught in the Sermon on the Mount.

And pastors are telling their flocks this is all okay because King David was forgiven of adultery. So, not to worry; we’ll be forgiven, too. I wonder if that’s the lesson of the King David story? Besides, if we are doing God’s Will, why will we need forgiveness? And if we know we are not doing God’s Will (and so will need forgiveness), why are we doing it?

I am 83. An old man. When my time comes, and St Peter asks me about this stuff, how should I respond? “Well, you see, it’s like this. We knew God wanted us to take control of the White House and the Senate and the House, right? And so we tried to do it. To please Him, of course. Not for us; oh, no, we have no ambitions. Sure, we strayed a bit, well, a lot, but it was for a sainted cause. Right? And that makes it okay. Right? So You’ll let me in, right?”

I don’t know. Seems like a long shot.

Thursday, July 21, 2022

How They Die 

(This incident occurred August 2, 1998

There is a family of red foxes that lives in the woods nearby. Last evening, our neighbor saw one of the kits calmly trotting into her barn. This morning, she found the fox in an empty horse stall, curled up against one wall, as if asleep. But the fox was not asleep; the fox was dead. There is a wound on one leg that may have been the cause of death. The warden reports it is not unusual for foxes to select a barn as a place to die.

But here’s the thing that’s getting to me. All the evidence at the scene suggests this fox died calmly and easily, as if it considered death as natural a process of life as hunting field mice, feasting on wild blueberries, prancing down a country road, or being born. There are no signs of frantic digging, scratching, wall climbing, or other desperate behavior. This fox was not trying to escape its fate, and it did not struggle against it. Instead, it seems that some time yesterday, this fox realized somewhere within that it was going to die last night, and so it found an appropriate site, and, without any fanfare, it simply did so.

Compare that performance with how any of us would have reacted to similar news. We would have fought tooth and nail! What is the difference between us and the fox? Is it perhaps that we perceive death as the opposite of life, and so we fear it terribly; but the fox recognizes death as the opposite of birth, and knows that life precedes birth and continues past death; and so it takes death in stride.

For anyone in search of a meditation practice, permit me to suggest: Consider the foxes, and how they die.

Monday, July 18, 2022


Jesus and Judas

This is a dramatic interpretation of a conversation that I hope took place between Jesus and Judas in the moments before The Last Supper (Mark 14, John 13). For me, this interpretation helps to explain why Jesus, a Divine Teacher (John 13:13), encouraged, even ordered (in his words, “What you are going to do, do quickly” John 13:27) his disciple Judas to betray him in a way that he, Jesus, must have known would ensure his arrest and likely crucifixion (John 13:21), and the eternal damnation of his disciple, Judas. (John 17:12?)

Those eight words just do not sound like something a True Teacher, any teacher, would speak to a student or a disciple in that way under those circumstances without some kind of prior explanation or preparation. Jesus was awake and aware; he had to have known precisely what was in Judas’ mind and its implications. Consider that after a brief meeting with a Samaritan woman at Jacob’s Well in Sycha, Jesus “told me all that I ever did” (John 4). If Jesus could read all there was to know about a woman whom he had only just met, it is not conceivable that he could not read Judas, head to toe.

The Gospels writers reported the crucifixion event as a betrayal because that is what it looked like to them. But was it? Something is missing. I suspect, nay, I am near certain, the incident unfolded differently than it was reported. 

There are a couple of brief comments at the bottom.

 The Time: Midday, a few hours before The Last Supper
The Place: Jerusalem, a grassy knoll
Present: Jesus, who is seated on the grass, and Judas, who is walking by.

Jesus (to Judas): There you are. Good. Come, sit next to me. We have to talk. There’s something I need you to do, something the two of us need to do together.

Judas (walks over, sits on the grass beside Jesus): Of course, Teacher. Whatever. (John 13:13)

Jesus: You’re a good man, Jay. But, trust me, you are not going to like this. (“Jay” is Jesus’ nickname for Judas.)

Judas: Please don’t say that, Teacher. Doing anything for You is my favorite thing. Whatever you need, just ask.

Jesus: You know about the sacrificial lamb thing, right?

Judas: Of course I do. A sinner lays his hand on a lamb, thereby passing his sin to the lamb; the lamb is slaughtered, and the sinner is cleansed.

Jesus: Well, our Father wants us to perform a variation on that.

Judas: I’m not sure I like the sound of that.

Jesus: What can I tell you, He’s God. (pauses, takes a breath) So, this is the way it’s going down. I am to be the lamb. Pilate, who as you know is looking for an excuse to get rid of me, what with all my talk of a New Kingdom, has been selected as the executioner, and …

Judas (interrupting): No, no, no! You know what that means, don’t You? You’re not a Roman citizen. You don’t get a clean chop at the neck. You get crucifixion. No, please, don’t say that word.

Jesus (with finality): Yes, I know. And here’s the thing: We’ve selected you to put it in motion. Dad and I want you to go to Pilate, and tell him where I am, and when he can find me here.

Judas (with panic): You’re scaring me. Please tell me You’re joking. Please, sir, say it’s …

Jesus (interrupting): I’m sorry, Jay, but it’s no joke. (Jesus affectionately takes Judas’ hand in his) Near the end of today’s meal, I am going to instruct you to go to Pilate, and tell him where he can find me. (with emphasis) The others are not to know what we’re doing until it’s in train. Mom, too. I mean that. (Jesus releases Judas’ hand) So, I will say to you something simple that none of them will understand, something like “Go!” And, without any comment, you will do as I am telling you now. Is that clear?

Judas: Of course, Teacher, I will do as You say. But You’re not telling the others? They’re going to blame all of this on me. They’re already jealous about Your having picked me as treasurer, even accusing me of “helping myself” to the group’s funds (John 12:6). You know I don’t mind taking heat for You; I love You so. But mankind will hate me forever. 

Enter Mary Magdalene

Jesus to Mary: I am glad you have come, Ems. It is good to have you here just now. Sit. (There are several Marys among Jesus’s close followers, so Jesus has a nickname for each. ‘Ems’ is short for the two M’s in Mary Magdalene.) (Mary sits on the grass, across from Jesus and Judas.)

Mary (to Jesus): Thank You, Teacher. (With respect, but firmly) If You need to have a secret conversation, then please have it in secret, not on an open lawn. (turns toward Judas with a smile and a hint of sarcasm) Jay, what’s–his–name, he who has a nasty habit of badmouthing you (John 12:6), (her face shows disgust) has been eavesdropping on this conversation, probably still is. (pauses, turns to us, the audience) Speaking of which, I am compelled to take a moment to clarify for you Judas’ earlier comment about being accused of stealing from our money box (John 12:6). All of the group’s money comes from me and a few other women who provide for Jesus out of our own means. (Luke 8:3) That accusation against Judas is a baldfaced lie, and I can say that with confidence because, believe me, if Judas or anyone else was helping himself to our money, Joanna, Susanna, Martha, Other, and I would have put him on a bus! (pauses, then sternly) I hope that’s clear. (sighs) (“Other” is Jesus’ nickname for the Mary named “the other Mary” at Matthew 27:61 and 28:1) (Mary turns back to Jesus and Judas) In fact, he is now out there telling the rest of us that (to Judas) you’re going to lead Pilate to us so that he can arrest and crucify (to Jesus) You.

Jesus (with exasperation): Oh, please.

Judas (to Jesus): What’d I tell You. My name’s going to be mud for all time.

Mary (to Judas): Not if I can help it, Jay. (to Jesus) Master (John 13:13), I understand there is a call for a sacrificial event. (Jesus raises his eyebrows) Yea, he told us about that, too. But why Jay? His love for You is intense; betraying You, even seeming to betray You, will kill him. If we have to do it, let it be me who delivers You to Pilate. No one here will dare accuse me. They’re all afraid of me. Assertive women scare the hell out of them, if You’ll pardon the expression. And my name? No matter what I do, the church is going to call me a whore. So what? I know who I am. Thanks to You!

Jesus (with a broad smile): I am proud of you, Ems. All the more for offering yourself on behalf of Jay. But you know, you both know, as well as I do, it would not work. It cannot be you. You’re a woman. Pilate won’t pay attention to a woman.

Mary: Tell me about it. (Jesus smiles)

Jesus (lightly): Just wait. That will improve. The women’s movement is coming; but it is still a couple thousand years off. (with seriousness) Here’s the thing. This task cannot be done by any of the others. Bless their hearts, none of them understands what I have been Teaching the way you two do. (a couple of tears are seen to form in Judas’ eyes) In their minds, it’s always been about us against Rome, politics and warfare, good guys and bad guys. Outer, not inner. (pauses in thought) Remember, they wanted me to burn a Samaritan village to the ground because it refused to welcome us. (Luke 9:54) Some of this stuff is over their heads. Their devotion, impassioned as it is, would not permit them to go peaceably to Pilate. They would insist on being armed. There would be a riot. The tenor of the event would be lost. (Jesus pauses. Turns to Judas) I’m sorry, Jay, but it’s got to be you.

The place: Heaven.
The time: A while since Jesus, Judas. and Mary Magdalene spoke.
Present: God, seated on a soft cloud.
A few feet off is Judas. He is walking uncertainly, toward God. He has performed precisely as instructed by Jesus.

God (seeing Judas): There you are. I’ve been waiting for you. Sit down, next to Me.

Judas (with nervousness): Are You … You are …

God: Yes, I AM. Don’t be nervous, it’s okay. My boy told Me about the conversation you two had, and I knew you would be coming, so I wanted to be here for you, soon as you arrived. How are you?

Judas: I’m afraid to tell You. You see, after talking to Pilate, I … what I did was …

God: I know what you did. You killed yourself. It’s alright, Jay. I understand. Really, I do. In your place, if I thought of myself as mortal, as you think of yourself, I might have done the same thing. Don’t worry about it. The boy’s being tortured right now, even as we speak. Soon, they will be driving nails through his hands and feet. That image is what killed you, thinking, believing that you are the cause of your beloved Teacher’s death. No, you only did what I wanted you to do. Please trust Me; the boy’s fine. He will be here with the two of us, soon. I will have him sit right next to you.

Judas: But he is in such pain, such suffering. It breaks my heart.

God: Pain, yes; suffering, no.

Judas (confused): He’s not suffering? I don’t understand, Sir.

God: Suffering is the mind taking pain personally. Jesus takes nothing personally. And neither should you. That’s My Area. As for pain, Jesus recognizes it as the body’s proper response to abuse, a call to the brain for help. He knows that.

Judas (still confused): I guess. I still hate what I, we, are doing to him. (pause) May I ask a question?

God: Of course.

Judas (with conviction): Why? Why is this happening? How does his dying cleanse me of my sins, cleanse mankind of our sins?

God: Ah, yes, finally the real question. I congratulate you. (pause) I regret having to tell you, the answer is: It doesn’t. Only you can do that. Sins are undone the same way as they are done … in your mind, in your heart, by your actions.

Judas (alarmed): Damn You! (immediately upon realizing what he has just said, and to Whom, Judas goes to his knees, his head down to his feet)

God (gently lifts Judas back to a seated position): Wow! That was refreshing. Thank you. I love it when people are honest with Me. It’s so rare. (God smiles) But let’s get right back to your question. It is a crucial one. I am so glad you asked it. (pauses) The point of the crucifixion is not that Jesus dies on the cross; the point is that he doesn’t. That’s why, any minute now, he will appear to Ems (John 20:11), fully alive. His appearance to her demonstrates that even after such a brutal bodily death — something the Romans sure do know how to orchestrate — Jesus is alive. Why? Because physical death is the opposite of physical birth, not of life. There is no opposite to life. Life is eternal. Jesus’ awakening into eternal life occurred in Bethany with John the Baptist (Mark 1:10). That is what the dove landing there is intended to signify. I figured a dove would be a metaphor no one could miss. That life never dies. Nothing kills it. That’s the lesson of the crucifixion.

Judas (still confused): I want to understand. Really, I do.

God: You will, Jay. Acknowledging confusion is the first step to that.

Jesus appears, sits right next to Judas

God (to Jesus): Oh, you’re here. How was it?

Jesus (with surprise): How was it? What a question! (turns to Judas) He’s something, isn’t He?


 Consider These Things:

Here are questions I continue struggling with about the relationship between Jesus and Judas. But before addressing those, we need to remind ourselves that scholars agree that none of the Gospels was originally written by the persons to whom they are attributed, that is, Mark, Matthew, Luke, or John; and, scholars are agreed they do not know who did write any of the Gospels; and, scholars agree the Gospels were probably written between forty to more than a hundred years after the death of Jesus; and, scholars are agreed that the Gospels were almost certainly not written by eyewitnesses to the events they report; and, we do not have an original manuscript of any of the Gospels, meaning every one of the Gospels we have is a copy — actually a copy of a copy of a copy of an original manuscript; and, our copy of a copy of a copy is not originally a product of an electronic copy machine that always produces identical copies; rather, our copy of a copy of a copy is a copy of a product originally written by hand in ink by someone who was not an eyewitness on who knows what quality of paper, stored who knows where, under who knows what conditions, and later copied again, and that copy later copied again, also by hand in ink on who knows what quality of paper, stored who knows where, under who knows what conditions, all of it routinely and repeatedly subjected to the vagaries of life, including fire, flood, war, erosion, banning, prohibition, carelessness, fraud, vandalism, not to mention ordinary year-to-year aging (look in a mirror — how closely do you resemble the lump of flesh your mother produced on your birth date?). The wonder is that the material remains, and is alive, even vibrantly alive.

Now, to the exchange between Jesus and Judas: How is it that Judas knew precisely what Jesus was referring to when he ordered Judas “What you are going to do, do quickly”? I get how Jesus, being Jesus (John 4:29), knew what was in Judas’ mind, but how did Judas know what was in Jesus’ mind? Judas obviously did know, otherwise he would have queried, “Do what quickly?” He would have feigned ignorance, displayed embarrassment, even shown fear. But there was none of that. Jesus ordered, Judas obeyed. As if Judas expected Jesus to do so.

To me, that means Judas knew what was in Jesus’ mind, and was expecting the command. And that, in turn, means that Jesus and Judas must have spoken about this moment earlier. If so, are we to believe that on learning of Judas’ intention to turn him in to Pilate, to betray him, Jesus’ response was, simply, “That’s fine. Tell you what, I’ll let you know when to do it.” Really? Is it not more likely Jesus would have said something like, “For God’s sake, do not do that! Betraying me will send you to Hell for all time.” There had to have been a prior conversation between the two of them. If so, why is that conversation not reported? After all, at issue is, did Judas sin, or did he simply obey his Master? That is not an oh-by-way question; it is critical. Why do the Gospels fail to address it? I have never heard it, or anything like it, asked in Sunday School or from a pulpit.

Further, the Gospels say that, in the midst of the event at the Last Supper, Satan entered Judas (Luke 22:3). If the Gospels writers knew it, Jesus must have known it. So, why didn’t Jesus command Satan, as he had done successfully before (Luke 4:8), “Get thee behind Judas, Satan!”? That is, why didn’t Jesus come to his disciple’s defense? Surely that’s something a Teacher would do, especially as loving and wondrous a Teacher as Jesus.

Also, why is it that none of the other eleven had any idea what Jesus was talking about when he said to Judas “What you are going to do, do quickly”? Here’s John 13:28: “no one at the table knew why he (Jesus) said this to him (Judas).” Why didn’t they know? Why didn’t they ask? Why did Jesus keep it a secret? Why did Jesus not protect Judas’ reputation by warning the other eleven that he knew what Judas was intent on doing, and that he, Jesus, had approved it, or at least not forbidden it? Why didn't the Gospels writers wonder about this, and include some comment? They must have known we would wonder. Jesus must have known we would wonder. Didn’t they, didn’t He, owe as much to Judas … to history, to us? 

In sum, the relationship between Jesus and Judas as told to us in the Gospels is, at best, incomplete, at worst a fiction. Jesus was far too good and sensitive and perceptive a man to allow a disciple, any disciple but perhaps particularly a disciple he, Jesus, had clearly thought highly enough to appoint as the group's treasurer, to allow him to suffer in Hell, as the Gospels tell us, for all time, for having committed an act that he, Jesus, could easily have intercepted. It simply does not parse. My advice to the Gospels writers: Back to the drawing board, boys.

And, finally, there is this: “Jesus” is the English form of the Latin form of the Greek form of the Hebrew word Yeshua or Yehoshua. In fact, scholars tell us the man’s name was almost certainly an Aramaic word, most likely something like Issa. Given that, I cannot help but wonder, is it appropriate for me, for us, to consider him, to address him, to love him, to pray to him, by the English version of the Latin name used by Pilate and his Roman soldiers as they drove iron nails into his hands and feet. Surely his mother, his disciples, and others who adored him, did not address him by that Roman name. Why do we?

Suppose a spouse or child or dear friend of yours had been arrested and tortured and even killed by some foreign authority, and instead of referring to their victim by his or her given name, those authorities called him or her something other than his true name. Would you adopt their applied name, or would you continue remembering and addressing your loved one by her or his familiar name? The question answers itself, doesn’t it?

I have taken to address the man by the name Issa instead of Jesus. I confess, it has taken me a long time to get used to it. That's why, on this page for readers other than me, He is here as Jesus. To read the same text with him as Issa, please click here.

 For additional consideration of Jesus's words at The Last Supper, please click here click here.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

And then there was light ..

Photos from around the world of yesterday's Women's March. Breath-taking.
    Please click here

Saturday, January 21, 2017

To Whom It May Concern:

Doctors Oz & Roizen in Bangor Daily News, January 21, 2017: According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, someone with a Narcissistic Personality Disorder sees himself or herself as exceptional; requires the approval of others; has no ability to empathize or identify with others; has superficial relationships that only exist to serve self-esteem; exhibits pathological personality traits of antagonism and feelings of entitlement and self-centeredness.

May God bless and protect the United States of America. Amen.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

No Bully Zone!

This week’s edition of The Republican Journal, published in Belfast, Maine, has a nice story about a family who are suggesting to the City Council that Belfast be declared a NO BULLY ZONE “because there are a lot of people who might not be able to say that for themselves.”

Speaking of bullies, the current President-Elect insists he is going to bring Americans “together as never before.” I wonder when he is going to begin doing that. A week or so ago, I saw him on CNN at one of his “Thank You” rallies. Judging from his words and performance at that event, it is clear he has not yet begun. And it really did not sound like he ever intends to begin doing so. It was all about “we versus they.” He left me convinced that this is a man who intends governing only forty-some percent of the country — those who voted for him — and leave the rest of us, not to mention the coming together stuff, to chance.

I have to say, too, that on that CNN screen, he still sounded like a bully to me. I wonder when the Trump family is going to bring out of the closet for us the Donald Trump whom Ivanka Trump talked about at their convention. As she described him, he sounded like a decent fellow. Maybe they are holding him in reserve until the inauguration on January 20. If so, what will they do with the one we have now? Take him to the pound?