Category Archives: Ecumenical & Interfaith

The Hidden Quaker Role in a Famous Catholic Monastery Cookbook “Empire”

How a solitary monk, known for his soup, united a community
[And how a Quaker helped him start]

Washington Post — September 20, 2022

By Kristen Hartke

As dusk began to fall on Jan. 10, 2001, Ray Patchey just wanted to get home to his family for his birthday dinner.

A lineman with Verizon, Patchey had been sent out to repair telephone lines following a snowstorm in rural Dutchess County, N.Y. Chilled to the bone, Patchey and another technician were just packing up to leave when the door to the nearby farmhouse swung open and a voice called out, “Don’t go, I’ve made some soup for you!”

Looking up, Patchey saw a Benedictine monk, clothed in traditional habit and sandals, standing in the doorway, and thought, “How can I say no?”

Little did he know that the monk was a best-selling cookbook author with legions of fans around the world. That bowl of soup, like so many others that Brother Victor-Antoine d’Avila-Latourrette has shared with friends and strangers alike over the course of several decades while living mostly alone at Our Lady of the Resurrection Monastery, was just the beginning.

Now 82, Brother Victor is the author of some 18 books, half of which are cookbooks that have collectively sold in the millions and been translated into multiple languages, including French, Japanese and Dutch. Born in Lées-Athas, a village in southwestern France’s Pyrenees mountains, Brother Victor grew up eating food that was cooked in rhythm with the seasons, saying now: “There is nothing like the French way of cooking, and everyone I knew cooked well — my mother, my grandmother. Everything we ate, vegetables, cheese,
bread, was fresh and local.” Continue reading The Hidden Quaker Role in a Famous Catholic Monastery Cookbook “Empire”

Russell Moore on Current U. S. Church splits, and their wider implications

An Excerpt From, “What Church Splits Can Teach Us About a Dividing America,”

Russell Moore, in Christianity Today:

“I asked a pastor of a large Methodist congregation what took the churches in the denomination so long to figure out that they must go in different directions.

He responded, “You are looking at this wrong, and a lot of people do. People think there are conservative churches and progressive churches and we just put the one group in one denomination and the other in another and then we’re all happy. You’re wrong.”

“Most congregations are not ‘blue’ or ‘red,’ if you want to use the partisan political analogy,” he said. “Most of the conservative congregations are 30 percent progressive, and most of the progressive congregations are 30 percent conservative. We’re not talking about a dividing line going down the middle of a denomination but a dividing line going down the middle of almost every individual church.”

After that conversation, I started asking different questions of my Methodist friends. I asked one group of pastors, “When the Methodist Church splits, where is your congregation going?” One answered, “Thirty percent of my church wants to stay put, 30 percent wants to leave, and 30 percent just want everybody to get along. [And] Ten percent don’t know that anything’s going on.” Many others nodded.

I then asked, “So what are y’all going to do?” One of the pastors quipped, “Take early retirement,” and the others laughed and said “Amen!” I’m not sure they were joking.

Yet their situation tracks with the state of the country—perhaps not in the reason for the division but in how it is playing out. “ . . .

Russell Moore leads the Public Theology Project at Christianity Today. He previously served as president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, the public-policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), and at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, as dean of the School of Theology, senior vice president for academic administration, and as professor of theology and ethics. In August 2022 he was appointed as incoming Editor-in-Chief of Christianity Today.

More illuminating (& sobering) background on the earlier church splits are in these two resources:

1) Broken Churches, Broken Nation, by the late scholar C. C. Goen, recounts the major schisms over slavery in three large American denominations prior to the Civil War. (More on that here.)

2) A wave of similar Quaker schisms, over newer social issues but older theological ones, fractured five U. S. Yearly Meetings (thus far) in the 21st century. These are recounted and analyzed in the three-volume study, The Separation Generation.

U. S. Methodist Church Splitting Over LGBTQs & Gay Marriage

Schisms over slavery, women and now, sexuality: A history of fractures among Methodists

Raleigh NC News & Observer

Un-united Methodists

The church has long delayed an anticipated split over LGBTQ issues — until now. It’s not going to be easy. As some in North Carolina look to disaffiliate from UMC for more conservative theology, others must grapple with their own stance on how to move forward.

The clash United Methodists face today over gay weddings and ordination is not the first time the denomination has fractured. The original Methodist church was founded out of a split from the Church of England. Methodism has evolved over the centuries in a series of fractures and mergers.

“It’s not the first time we’ve split. It’s not the first time we’ve reunited,” said the Rev. Jennifer Copeland, executive director of the North Carolina Council of Churches and a United Methodist minister.

HISTORY OF SCHISMS

Methodism was founded in the 18th century as a movement by John Wesley to reform the Church of England from within, according to the UMC. The Methodist Episcopal Church split off and established itself as an autonomous church in 1784. Continue reading U. S. Methodist Church Splitting Over LGBTQs & Gay Marriage

Student loan debt cancellation: good or bad?

[Note: Here’s my two cents on the student loan cancellation plan: I’m all for it. Shoulda been more. But will it survive the imminent rightwing legal assaults? Some further thoughts below.]

From Religion Dispatches:

What with Ukraine, Mar-a-Lago, Jerome Powell, and what-not, I suppose we can be forgiven (ha!) if we didn’t pay a lot of attention to the gnashing of teeth over President Biden’s long-delayed decision to forgive a significant amount of student debt.

As with everything else, the fallout is sharply polarized, with people like Ted Cruz predicting the end of civilization as we know it, and with folks in the Larry Summers wing of the Democratic Party fussing over the possible inflationary impact. (Do these inflation hawks ever fuss over the debate-free passage of ginormous unpaid-for military appropriations? Just wondering.)

And then there’s the “Christian” (i.e., evangelical Protestant) reaction to Biden’s action, as reported in Christianity Today and elsewhere, where scholars and cranks play whack-a-mole with Bible verses having to do with debt.

What I like best is the Can we proof-text this? We probably shouldn’t. But let’s try anyway! aspect of it. Not to mention the dominant focus on rival passages in the Hebrew Bible without much, if any, attention paid to how Jesus responded to debt peonage in his time and place.

Stefani McDade begins her Christianity Today roundup of evangelical responses by reporting on the top four Bible verses being cited by online Christian commentators in response to Biden’s move. The top four verses popping up on her screen were all from the Hebrew Bible—or the Old Testament as CT prefers to call it.

Then McDade cites the reactions of three guys. The first, an Anglican priest from Indiana, is all in on debt forgiveness. This guy actually does quote Jesus a lot. The second guy, from the Cato Institute (that well-known Christian organization), says that you can’t apply biblical texts related to an ancient agrarian society to our situation. The third guy, who works for a Washington PR firm, says let’s not debate this at all:

Instead, we should humbly engage others with our biblical convictions and research about alternatives, cost-benefit analysis, and weighing of unintended consequences as we pursue human flourishing and the common good.

Continue reading Student loan debt cancellation: good or bad?

Newest U. S. Catholic Cardinal – A Surprisingly “Progressive” Pick

When San Diego Bishop Robert McElroy received his prestigious red hat at the Vatican on Saturday, he brought to the College of Cardinals a fervent loyalty to Pope Francis that has often put him at odds with the conservative majority in the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Robert McElroy, a new Catholic cardinal

McElroy, 68, is the only American among the 21 clerics being installed as cardinals by Francis in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Basilica. He was chosen over numerous higherranking American archbishops, including two from his home state — outspoken conservative Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco and José Gomez of Los Angeles, the president of the U.S. bishops conference.

McElroy has been among the few American bishops who questioned why the conference insists on identifying abortion as its “preeminent” priority. Echoing the pope’s concerns, he has questioned why greater prominence is not given to issues such as poverty, immigration and climate change.

“The death toll from abortion is more immediate, but the longterm death toll from unchecked climate change is larger and threatens the very future of humanity,” McElroy said in 2020.

The Rev. James Martin, editoratlarge of the Jesuit magazine America, described McElroy as “one of the foremost articulators in the United States not only of Pope Francis’ vision but also the vision of the Second Vatican Council and, more basically, the vision of the Gospel.

“He has been the special champion of people on the margins, both in society and in the church,” Martin said via email. “It’s not surprising that the Holy Father would have singled him out for this honor and that he would want the future Cardinal McElroy present in the conclave that will elect the next pope.”

Chad Pecknold, a theology professor at The Catholic University of America who has been critical of many Vatican decisions under Francis papacy, said McElroy “often speaks from the ideological margins” and thus would be seen, in this papacy, as an appropriate candidate to be a cardinal.

“But mostly, his elevation reminds me that more senior and substantial prelates like Archbishop Cordileone and Archbishop Gomez have, once again, been very deliberately passed over,” Pecknold said in an email.

Among his notable stances, McElroy has been one of a minority of U.S. bishops denouncing the campaign to exclude Catholic politicians who support abortion rights from Communion.

“It will bring tremendously destructive consequences,” McElroy wrote last year. “The Eucharist is being weaponized and deployed as a tool in political warfare. This must not happen.”

Cordileone, in contrast, said earlier this year that he would no longer allow House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to receive Communion because of her support for abortion rights.

Last year McElroy was among a small group of bishops signing a statement expressing support for LGBTQ youth and denouncing the bullying often directed at them.

The bishops said LGBTQ youth attempt suicide at much higher rates, are often homeless because of families who reject them and “are the target of violent acts at alarming rates.”

“We stand with you and oppose any form of violence, bullying or harassment directed at you,” the statement read. “Most of all, know that God created you, God loves you and God is on your side.”

McElroy received a bachelor’s degree in history from Harvard in 1975 and a master’s in history from Stanford in 1976.

He studied at St. Patrick Seminary in Menlo Park, California, and in 1985 received a theology degree at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley. He obtained a doctorate in moral theology at the Gregorian University in Rome the following year and a doctorate in political science at Stanford in 1989.

He was ordained in 1980 and assigned to the Archdiocese of San Francisco, where he served in a parish before becoming personal secretary to Archbishop John Quinn. Other California parish assignments included Redwood City and San Mateo.

He became an auxiliary bishop in San Francisco in 2010. In 2015, early in Francis’ pontificate, he was named bishop of San Diego. For the past three years, he has served as president of the California bishops conference.

Monsignor Stephen Doktorczyk, vicargeneral for the Diocese of Orange, said McElroys leadership skills have been impressive.

“One thing I respect about him is that while he is confident in the positions he takes, he truly is open to hearing the take of others and engaging in a dialogue with those who have different points of view,” Doktorczyk said.

Allan Figueroa Deck, a distinguished scholar of pastoral theology at Loyola Marymount University, said McElroy’s elevation represents a “clear message” from the pope about the direction the church should move in.

McElroy “understands and takes seriously what Pope Francis means by ‘epochal change’ and the challenge of finding better models, a more effective and inclusive style for the Church to proceed,” Deck said via email. “He approaches hotbutton issues like the pastoral care of LGBTQ persons and the abortion issue with balance and prudence.”

Conservative Catholic activist Michael Hichborn of the Lepanto Institute has been a frequent critic of McElroy, for example condemning his strong support for the Association of United States Catholic Priests. The association is a relatively liberal group whose priorities include expanding the role of women in church leadership and creating “priestless parishes” that potentially could be overseen by laypeople as a way of countering the shortage of priests.

McElroy’s elevation “is a sign of Pope Francis’ desire to marry the Church with the world,” Hichborn said via email. “There can be little doubt that McElroy currently stands as the model for the kind of priest, bishop, and cardinal Pope Francis desires for the future of the Church.”

The Diocese of San Diego runs the length of California’s border with Mexico and serves more than 1.3 million Catholics in San Diego and Imperial counties. It includes 98 parishes, 49 elementary and secondary schools and, through Catholic Charities of the Diocese of San Diego, various social service and family support organizations.

___

More from AP at the Vatican

Of the 20 churchmen named new cardinals in the consistory ceremony, 16 are younger than 80 and thus eligible to participate in a conclave — the ritualshrouded, lockeddoor assembly of cardinals who cast paper ballots to elect a new pontiff.

The 85yearold Francis has now named 83 of the 132 cardinals currently young enough to join a conclave. The others were appointed by the previous two popes, St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI, whose unexpected retirement in 2013 paved the way for Francis to be elected.

With the eight batches of cardinals Francis has named, prospects are boosted that whoever becomes the next pontiff will share his vision for the future of the church.

Francis reminded the cardinals of their mission, which he said includes “an openness to all peoples, to the horizons of the world, to the peripheries as yet unknown.”

Underlining Francis attention to those on societys margins, among the new cardinals is Archbishop Anthony Poola of Hyderabad, India. The prelate, 60, is the first member of the Dalit community, considered the lowest rung of Indias caste system, to become a cardinal.

One by one, the newest cardinals, whose red cassocks and headgear symbolizes the blood they must be prepared to shed if necessary in their mission, knelt before Francis, who placed on their head the prestigious biretta, as the threepeaked hat is known.

In choosing San Diego Bishop Robert Walter McElroy, Francis passed over U.S. churchmen leading traditionally more prestigious dioceses, including San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone.

Among the newest cardinals is Bishop Richard Kuuia Baawobr from Wa, Ghana, who has spoken out against LGBTQ rights. The African prelate felt ill when he arrived in Rome on Friday and was hospitalized for a heart problem, the pope told the other cardinals, asking them to pray “for this brother who should have been here.”

Asked by The Associated Press about such contrasting views among church leaders, McElroy replied that “there are always cultural differences within the life of the church as there is within in the human family. And different cultures approach these questions in different ways.”

McElroy added: My own view is that we have an obligation in the church to make the LGBT persons feel equally welcome in the life of the church, as everyone else.” . . .

Archbishop Ulrich Steiner of Manaus, Brazil, became the first cardinal from the Amazon, the vast, environmentallyvulnerable region in South America on the Argentineborn pontiff’s home continent. In remarks to The AP, Steiner expressed concern about increasing violence in the Amazon.

“But this violence was not born there, it came from outside, Steiner, 71, said. ”It is always violence related to money. Concessions, deforestation, also with the mines, also with the fishing.

At 48, the youngest member among the cardinals ranks is an Italian missionary in Mongolia, where Catholics number some 1,300. Francis knows how important it is supporting these little communities, said the new cardinal, Giorgio Marengo.

Associated Press religion coverage receives support through the AP’s collaboration with The Conversation US, with funding from Lilly Endowment Inc. The AP is solely responsible for this content.

Frederick Buechner: Religious Novelist

NOTE: I was not much of a fan of Frederick Buechner, a writer who died last week at 96. I tried his quartet of novels about a semi-charlatan-but-maybe-a-saint preacher in Florida, but Buechner lost me with his character’s name, Leo Bebb, which is bar none the most uneuphonious & off-putting monicker in my experience of what is said to be serious fiction.

But on the other hand, his work did hit me a glancing blow once, glancing but perhaps mortal.

It happened when a woman friend named Patricia, assigned to do a reading, pulled a slim book from her purse and opened it somewhere in the middle. The book is called Peculiar Treasures, and in it Buechner collected short sketches of various biblical characters. Here is what Patricia read, complete:

Isaiah

There were banks of candles in the distance and clouds of incense thickening the air with holiness and stinging his eyes, and high above him . . there was the Mystery Itself . . . and the whole vast reeking place started to shake beneath his feet . . .and he cried out, “O God, I am done for! I am foul of mouth and the member of a foul-mouthed race. With my own two eyes I have seen him. I’m a goner and sunk.”

Then one of the winged things touched his mouth with fire and said, “There, it will be all right now,” and the Mystery Itself said, “Who will it be?” and with charred lips he said “Me,” and Mystery said, “GO.”

Mystery said, “Go give the deaf hell till you’re blue in the face and go show the blind Heaven till you drop in your tracks because they’d sooner eat ground glass than swallow the bitter pill that puts roses in the cheeks and a gleam in the eye. Go do it.”

Isaiah said, “Do it till when?”

Mystery said, “Till Hell freezes over.”

Mystery said, “Do it till the cows come home.”

And that is what a prophet does for a living, so starting from the year that King Uzziah died when he saw and heard all these things, Isaiah went and did it.

— Frederic Buechner, “Peculiar Treasures, A Biblical Who’s Who.”

NOTE: I’ve forgotten when and where the reading took place, and lost touch with Patricia. But I hunted down & bought the book, and hung on to it for years. Just one sketch like that can put a reader in permanent debt to a writer, even if the guy published 38 other books (as Buechner did) which were over my head or didn’t speak to my condition.

As a writer, I should be so lucky.

New York Times

Frederick Buechner, Novelist With a Religious Slant, Dies at 96

He drew on his theological credentials in essays and memoirs, and his fiction, full of colorful characters, was admired for its elegance, wit and depth.

Frederick Buechner, who wrote 39 books, exploring the human condition from inspirational and sometimes humorous perspectives.
Credit…Alan Fortney, via Buechner family

Frederick Buechner, a Presbyterian minister who never held a church pastorate but found his calling writing a prodigious quantity of novels, memoirs and essays that explored the human condition from inspirational and often humorous religious perspectives, died on Monday at his home in Rupert, Vt. He was 96.

His son-in-law and literary executor, David Altshuler, confirmed the death.

Drawing on literary and theological credentials over six decades, Mr. Buechner (pronounced BEEK-ner) published 39 books, many of them well-received fictional excursions into the adventures of charlatans, lovers, historical or biblical characters and ordinary people who take on self-imposed superhuman challenges and stoop to only-too-human skulduggery, all in the name of God.

Continue reading Frederick Buechner: Religious Novelist

Obits: Music & Theology: J. Deotis Roberts & Butch Thompson

J. Deotis Roberts, a pioneer of Black theology, dies at 95

Washington Post — August 16, 2022

By Harrison Smith
August 16, 2022

The night of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination in 1968, the Rev. J. Deotis Roberts was attending a conference at Duke University, listening to German theologian Jürgen Moltmann present a paper on the theology of hope.

Dr. Roberts, a soft-spoken Baptist minister and theology professor at Howard University in Washington, had spent years wrestling with philosophical questions about God, existence and meaning. Now he began to wonder what Moltmann’s theology — what any theology — had to say to “a hopeless people” living in an age of anger and despair.

  1. The Rev. J. Deotis Roberts in 2007 at his home in Bowie, Md. (Charmaine Roberts Parker)

     

The next morning, he asked Moltmann how his approach to Christianity might be applied to Black Americans. The German scholar had no answers.

“It was then,” Dr. Roberts later wrote in an essay, “that the seed of ‘black theology’ began to germinate in my own mind.”

Dr. Roberts went on to help pioneer Black theology, a new perspective on Christianity that evolved in response to the revolutionary spirit of the Black Power movement, with a focus on issues of racial justice and liberation. “I am pleading for a theology of the Black experience which grows out of the soil of our heritage and life,” he wrote in a 1976 article for the Journal of Religious Thought, outlining his vision. “For us faith and ethics must be wed. There can be no separation of the secular and the sacred. Jesus means freedom.”

A first-generation Black theologian, Dr. Roberts rose from an upbringing in the segregated South, where the county prison was within sight of his elementary school, to become the first African American to earn a doctorate from the University of Edinburgh’s divinity school in Scotland. His work emphasized both liberation and reconciliation, drawing from King’s emphasis on nonviolence as well as Malcolm X’s message of Black self-determination. As he saw it, the church had an obligation to address social issues and engage with the daily struggles of marginalized people, including African Americans.

“No theologian of [Christianity] can escape the ethical questions raised by racism,” he wrote in his 1971 book “Liberation and Reconciliation,” “whether white oppression or black response.”

Over the decades, Dr. Roberts’s work became “a touchstone” for generations of Black theologians, according to his former student David Emmanuel Goatley, director of the Office of Black Church Studies at Duke Divinity School. Dr. Roberts was 95 when he died July 22 at his home in Clinton, Md. His daughter Charmaine Roberts Parker confirmed the death but did not cite a cause.

For years, Dr. Roberts was engaged in an intellectual dialogue with the Rev. James H. Cone, who effectively launched Black theology as a formal discipline with his 1969 book “Black Theology & Black Power.” While Cone emphasized the need for liberation, Dr. Roberts insisted that reconciliation was just as important. “He did not want to support any notion of freedom, of liberation, that would in any way create separation,” said the Very Rev. Kelly Brown Douglas, dean of Episcopal Divinity School at Union Theological Seminary in New York.

“If Cone was more spurred on by a Malcolm and the Black Power movement,” she added in a phone interview, “then Roberts was more like a King,” emphasizing a message of nonviolence and reconciliation while pointing to “Christ’s universal relationship to all humanity,” not just White people, who often depicted Jesus as a blond-haired, light-skinned messiah. “For Roberts,” Douglas continued, “Black people had as much right to see Christ in their likeness as did anybody else.”

Dr. Roberts liked to say that he lived “with one foot in the academy and one foot in the church,” and preached and taught at churches while spending much of his academic career at historically Black institutions. He taught at Howard’s divinity school for 22 years before leaving in 1980 to become president of the Interdenominational Theological Center, a consortium of seminaries in Atlanta. He was later a distinguished professor of philosophical theology at Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary in the Philadelphia suburbs, and in 1992 he was elected the first Black president of the American Theological Society, one of the field’s oldest professional associations.

He felt an obligation, he said, to help “overcome the cancer of racism” afflicting seminaries and other religious institutions, in part by bringing more people of color — and more women — into leadership positions. For many years he also taught alongside Latin American theologians at a seminary in Buenos Aires and collaborated with scholars from around the world, focusing in particular on Black theology’s African spiritual heritage.

“Roberts applied himself and his genius to building important bridges between African Americans and Euro Americans; the church and the community; older and younger generations; traditional and contemporary cultured expressions; and between prophetic and praise-based church traditions,” said Adetokunbo Adelekan, a theology and ethics professor at Palmer Theological Seminary, the successor to Eastern Baptist.

“In so doing,” Adelekan continued in an email, “he helped to expand our imagination about the role of the seminary and the church and where the future of the American Church may be.”

The youngest of three children, James Roberts was born in Spindale, N.C., on July 12, 1927. His father was a carpenter, and his mother was a homemaker. According to his daughter, he took the middle name Deotis at the suggestion of his elementary school principal, who said that it meant “learned man” or “scholar.”

He went on to graduate from high school at 16 and studied at historically Black universities, receiving a bachelor’s degree from Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte in 1947 and a bachelor of divinity from Shaw University in Raleigh, N.C., in 1950. During his studies, he supported himself in part by serving as a pastor.

Dr. Roberts earned a master of sacred theology degree in 1952 from Hartford Seminary (now Hartford International University for Religion and Peace) and received his doctorate in philosophical theology five years later. In part, said Goatley, he completed his education in Scotland because of racial barriers at American divinity schools: “There were exceedingly few opportunities in the United States for an African American to be able to pursue a PhD in theology or philosophy.”

The year after he got his doctorate, Dr. Roberts joined the Howard University faculty. He took a leave of absence in the mid-1970s to serve as dean of the theology school at Virginia Union University in Richmond, and taught at Eastern Baptist from 1984 until 1998, commuting to the campus in Wynnewood, Pa., from his home in Silver Spring, Md. Later he taught for three years at Duke.

Dr. Roberts published more than a dozen books, including the essay collection “Quest for a Black Theology” (1971), which he edited with James J. Gardner; “A Black Political Theology” (1974); and “Bonhoeffer and King: Speaking Truth to Power” (2005), which explored the theological perspectives of King and German minister Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

His wife of 66 years, Elizabeth Caldwell Roberts, an elementary school teacher, died in 2019. In addition to his daughter Parker of Clinton, Md., survivors include two other daughters, Carlita Roberts Marsh of Washington and Kristina Roberts, a best-selling author who writes under the pseudonym Zane and lives in Atlanta; eight grandchildren; and a great-granddaughter. He was predeceased by a son, Deotis.

After he started writing about Black theology, Dr. Roberts appeared at conferences and church gatherings to discuss his views, including at a 1989 conference in New York City where speakers noted some of the problems facing Black Americans, including poverty and violence.

“In some respects, we’ve gone backwards in this decade, and racism itself has become more insidious,” he told the New York Times at the time. “If our people are to survive,” he continued, “it will be largely due to how well the Black church carries out its mission.”

Harrison Smith is a reporter on The Washington Post’s obituaries desk. Since joining the obituaries section in 2015, he has profiled big-game hunters, fallen dictators and Olympic champions. He sometimes covers the living as well, and previously co-founded the South Side Weekly, a community newspaper in Chicago.

https://garrisonkeillor.substack.com/p/butch-thompson-you-will-be-missed

BUTCH THOMPSON – YOU WILL BE MISSED!

Nov 28, 1943 – August 14, 2022

     The most elegant gentleman to come out of Minnesota, Mr. Butch Thompson, 
died yesterday in St. Paul. He picked up the New Orleans spirit listening to Jelly
Roll Morton 78s and carried it through the 20th into the 21st century. He was a pianist and a clarinetist, the piano for the bounce, the clarinet for the blues, and if he could've he would've played both at the same time. We worked together for years, a quiet man, and I never knew him except through his music. God bless the memory, God preserve the music.
GK

Born and raised in Marine-on-St. Croix, a small Minne-river town, Butch Thompson was playing Christmas carols on his mother’s upright piano by age three, and began formal lessons at six. He picked up the clarinet in high school and led his first jazz group, “Shirt Thompson and His Sleeves,” as a senior.

After high school, he joined the Hall Brothers New Orleans Jazz Band of Minneapolis, and at 18 made his first visit to New Orleans, where he became one of the few non-New Orleanians to perform at Preservation Hall during the 1960s and ’70s.

In 1974, he joined the staff as the house pianist of public radio’s A Prairie Home Companion. By 1980, the show was nationally syndicated, and the Butch Thompson Trio was the house band, a position the group held for the next six years.

From the early days on APHC, Butch remembers, “It was pretty casual back then. Margaret or somebody would call me and ask if I was busy on Saturday. More than once I remember saying I couldn’t get there by showtime, and being told to show up as soon as I could. Sometimes I’d go onstage without remembering what key something was in. If Garrison was going to sing, I usually couldn’t go wrong with E major.”

By the late ’90s, Thompson was known as a leading authority on early jazz. He served as a development consultant on the 1992 Broadway hit Jelly’s Last Jam, which starred Gregory Hines. He also joined the touring company of the off-Broadway hit Jelly Roll! The Music and the Man, playing several runs with that show in New York and other cities through 1997.

The Village Voice described Butch’s music as “beguiling piano Americana from an interpreter who knows that Bix was more than an impressionist and Fats was more than a buffoon.”

Shining Light on the New Church of Rightwing Dark Money

ProPublica: A Right-Wing Think Tank Claimed to Be a Church. Now, Members of Congress Want to Investigate

Andrea Suizzo — August 2, 2022

Forty members of Congress on Monday asked the IRS and the Treasury to investigate what the lawmakers termed an “alarming pattern” of right-wing advocacy groups registering with the tax agency as churches, a move that allows the organizations to shield themselves from some financial reporting requirements and makes it easier to avoid audits.

Reps. Jared Huffman, D-Calif., and Suzan DelBene, D-Wash., raised transparency concerns in a letter to the heads of both agencies following a ProPublica story about the Family Research Council, a right-wing Christian think tank based in Washington, D.C., getting reclassified as a church. Thirty-eight other lawmakers, including Reps. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., and Jamie Raskin, D-Md., signed onto the letter.

“FRC is one example of an alarming pattern in the last decade — right-wing advocacy groups self-identifying as ‘churches’ and applying for and receiving church status,” the representatives wrote, noting the organization’s policy work supporting the overturning of Roe v. Wade and its advocacy for legislation seeking to ban gender-affirming surgery.

“Tax-exempt organizations should not be exploiting tax laws applicable to churches to avoid public accountability and the IRS’s examination of their activities,” they wrote.

The Family Research Council did not respond to requests for comment. The IRS told ProPublica that it does not comment on congressional correspondence.

The FRC’s website describes the organization as “a nonprofit research and educational organization dedicated to articulating and advancing a family-centered philosophy of public life,” noting that it provides “policy research and analysis for the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of the federal government.” Continue reading Shining Light on the New Church of Rightwing Dark Money

War Notes: Russian Jewish Community facing “dark clouds” over Ukraine war

Moscow’s ex-chief rabbi warns of ‘dark clouds’ for Russian Jews

Issued on:


Jerusalem (AFP) –
Moscow’s former chief rabbi now living in exile in Israel warned Thursday of “dark clouds on the horizon” for Russian Jews, as ties between the two countries deteriorate over the Ukraine war.

Pinchas Goldschmidt, who left Russia in March over opposition to the conflict, told reporters that “the Jewish community was pressured… to openly support the war. Our community did not support the war.”

“The situation is worrying” and there are “many dark clouds on the horizon” for Russian Jews, he said, adding that their “security and future… is dependent on Israel-Russia relations”.

Israel has been trying to walk a cautious line in order to maintain ties with Moscow — seen as crucial to preserving the Jewish state’s ability to carry out air strikes in neighbouring Syria, where Russian forces are present.

“Right now, it would be impossible for me to return,” the Swiss-born rabbi told an online briefing, adding: “If I would have (remained) the chief rabbi of Moscow, I wouldn’t be able to speak out openly without endangering my community.”

“I decided to stay in exile until the political situation will change.”

Following the February 24 invasion, then Israeli premier Naftali Bennett withheld criticism of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s actions and stressed the need for close ties with Moscow.

But Bennett’s successor Yair Lapid has condemned the Russian invasion.

Analysts say Lapid’s rhetoric has partly driven Moscow’s move to close the Russian branch of the Jewish Agency, which processes the immigration of Jews from the diaspora to Israel.

Lapid has warned Moscow that the closure would be a “serious event” threatening bilateral ties.

The Kremlin has said the move should not be “politicised”, calling it a purely legal matter.

According to the Jewish Agency, 16,000 Russian Jews have immigrated to Israel since the invasion began.

‘Fear of rising anti-Semitism’

Goldschmidt estimated that more than 30,000 other dual passport holders had left Russia for Israel since February 24.

Jews were leaving Russia in high numbers partly over fears of a new “Iron Curtain — that one day (it) will be impossible to leave”, the rabbi said, articulating what he described as concern among Jews that Putin’s government could ban outbound travel.

He said Moscow’s moves against the Jewish Agency, among other incidents, had fostered “fear of rising anti-Semitism”.

Some experts have attributed Russia’s threats against the agency as part of an attempt to slow mass emigration.

“If Russia wants to stop the brain drain of its best scientists and creative class, the best way to do this is not by closing the Jewish Agency, but by stopping this war,” Goldschmidt said.

At a preliminary hearing on Thursday, a Moscow court set an August 19 trial date for the Russian justice ministry’s case against the agency, which has been accused of unspecified legal violations.

The Jewish Agency began working in Russia in 1989.

More than one million of Israel’s 9.4 million residents today have roots in the former Soviet Union.

God Save Us from the Supreme Court Theocrats!

NOTE: Kennedy v. Bremerton is the short name for this case, but it would be better dubbed the “Blow Another Big Hole In the Freedom from Religion & the First Amendment!” Case.

As the respected SCOTUS blog noted,

Rachel Laser, the president of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which represented the school district, took a different view. She called the decision “the greatest loss of religious freedom in our country in generations” and she warned that Kennedy’s supporters would “try to expand this dangerous precedent – further undermining everyone’s right to live as ourselves and believe as we choose.”

In a stinging dissent, justice Sotomayor wrote (and showed) that the bulldozer majority had “misconstrue[d]” — more plainly, falsified & lied about — the facts” of the case, depicting Kennedy’s prayers as “private and quiet” when the prayers had actually caused “severe disruption to school events.”

I’m not an atheist; in fact I’ll be attending worship in a couple of hours, in a very small, but doughty, minority sect (aka Quakers) and may well even pray there. Our group had to struggle & suffer to gain religious freedom, for ourselves and others, and that experience remains unforgotten. So whatever is columnist Pamela Paul’s faith or unfaith, (her private business), I nod in gratitude as she spotlights some of the many ominous implications of this precedent, especially for those associated with minority faiths, or the steadily growing population of “Nones.” Added up, to paraphrase a stanza from The Music Man,  they spell

Trouble with a Capital T,

And that rhymes with P

And that stands for

Pushing private prayer on a progressively more p*ssed off public.

New York Times For This Supreme Court, Justice Isn’t Blind. Faith Is.

Opinion Columnist

Imagine your boss fervently proclaiming his religious beliefs at the end of a companywide meeting, inviting everyone on the team who shares those beliefs to join in. You’re surrounded by colleagues and other higher-ups. Everyone is watching to see who participates and who holds back, knowing that whatever each of you does could make or break your job and even your career, whether you share his convictions or not. But hey, totally up to you!

That’s what Joseph Kennedy, a former assistant coach in Kitsap County, Wash., did with his team — only he did it with public-school students at a high-school football game. When the superintendent made clear that by actively inviting players to join him at the 50-yard line for postgame Christian prayers, he was violating school policy and, by the way, the Constitution’s Establishment Clause, Kennedy took to the media, turning a small town’s school sporting event into a three-ring circus and ugly social media sideshow, with students effectively forced to perform or suffer the consequences.

Naming the single worst decision of the Supreme Court’s disgraceful 2021-22 term is a tough call. But the one that best captures the majority’s brazen efforts to inflict its political and religious agenda on the rest of the country may well be Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, which ruled that the coach had a constitutional right to pray on the field. Overturning precedent and in a cynical elision of fact, Justice Neil Gorsuch, writing for a 6-to-3 majority, affirmed Kennedy’s assertion that his proselytizing on government property during a public-school function was “private,” “personal” and “quiet.”

It was nothing of the kind. In easily observable fact, Kennedy’s religious display was public, vocal and coercive, as demonstrated by testimony from football players and other community members and by video and photographs of the coach surrounded by crowds of people on bent knee. According to an amicus brief filed by one of Kennedy’s football players and seven other members of the community on behalf of the school district, participation in Kennedy’s prayers was “expected.” Students were explicitly encouraged by him to ask the other teams’ coaches and players to join in, something Kennedy himself boasted about.