Stress-Induced Total Immobility Syndrome: Too Much SITS, not enough getting ‘er done (till now).

Here’s one of my church chums giving the sermon today, in a badass ensemble consisting of a prayer stole or preaching stole and a fine Cubs T-shirt. We’re still in Summer Casual mode at Holy Moly.

When I’m under pressure and feeling overwhelmed, I SITS around a lot watching TV, goofing around on Twitter, and sending texts and postcards to random Congresspeople and government departement secretaries. Yesterday, I was up against a hard time limit and solved a technical issue with one of my website/blogs that’s been frustrating me for months.

So, finally, I went back to church at Holy Moly for the first time since JUNE. I had to, today was the first day the choir was supposed to be “back in black,” hence my self-imposed hard time limit. The church website absolutely had to show updates, or I’d have to deal with more questions as to why outdated posts about EASTER were still visible on the static main page.

My conscience is now clear. You can see the result of much needless agita at St Nicholas Episcopal Church.

Still some cosmetic tweaks needed, but the timely content is front and center, and it’s easy to update. Now for figuring out the easiest way for a couple of more people to have update access. The biggest hurdle is cleared at last.

My extended absence each week kept getting longer and longer, because aside from not being able to figure out a frustrating technical issue with the church website (which is now licked), I had gotten much too slack and comfortable about Sunday morning sleep-ins.

It started out just being “the choir is off for the summer” but it turned into many more things left undone than I could cope with, and I didn’t want to show up until I figured them out.

However, late last night I finally implemented some dang useful tools for administering the Holy Moly website. They are the same tools that I was playing around with here at Blogula Rasa that greatly simplify and streamline the task of writing, publishing, and sharing a blog post to social media.

The problem starts with my own lack of confidence, exacerbated by a tendency to self-distract and hare off into an expending state of spin. If I had to get something done, I needed to get three or four other things done first that “weren’t working right” or bugging me. And those things would generate more and more things that frustrated or stymied me.

Since I have this blog, and a couple of other personal blogs, and the church website/blog to administer, if something stops working on one site, it has to be dealt with at the other sites, which all have different themes and back-end plugins and style sheets to cope with.

Add to that, a disinclination to spend much time at my “home computer” desk, which is a bit of a cobbled-together arrangement that’s not all that comfortable. I used to spend hours and hours online, chatting or fooling around with a 3D design program (which is fiendishly frustrating in itself). But more than a year ago, I stopped going online, and started spending more time discussing the bizarre events of the American presidential election on Twitter and Facebook. I kind of dropped a lot of balls with my online social contacts.

And add to THAT, complete frustration with trying to update my two most important blog/websites on a small mini iPad rather than wrestling with an older laptop that’s badly in need of updating. I use WordPress, and the web interface on the iPAd in Safari is hard to work with, with a maddening tendency to throw a “server not responding, lost connection” error that is related to the wireless keyboard I use. I’d find myself spending an HOUR just trying to write, annotate, and SAVE (save, save, save) a draft. Forget trying to publish, that took at least 5 or 10 tries and required turning off the wireless keyboard and pressing the Publish button for JUST the right amount of time. Sometimes I’d start updating and give up, furious. The desktop was uncomfortable, the laptop unworkable, the iPad a complete torture.

Frankly, it was easier to just post something on Twitter, rather than make my self crazy trying to write anything longer than 140 characters.

Meanwhile, all the blogs used a variety of plugins that were supposed to automate the task of reposting content to various Facebook pages and Twitter. It worked for a long time, and then gradually, some plugins stopped working, other plugins announced they were ceasing to be supported. Don’t even get me started on how Google stopped developing Picasa, that was the backbone of my large collection of seasonally appropriate images for the church website, that also semi automated sending photos to the church Facebook page and Flickr.

I stayed away from church because I got tired of explaining to people why the church website wasn’t getting updated each week; one of my church chums is a solid rock of dependability who sends nicely formatted Constant Comment newsletters every Tuesday without fail; all I have to do is copy/paste some essays, news items, and stock images, and aside from the back-end plugins not working, the church website at least could be a snap. Except that I kept putting off wrestling with it, for months.

For a while I relied on IFTTT recipes to deal with reposting at Facebook (the church likes FB’s ability to show events, photos, etc.) and also reposting to Twitter. But that was cumbersome. I couldn’t face my chums (or Father Manny), so I stayed away.

Then, at Blogula Rasa, I stumbled on to a whole suite of plugins called Jetpack, that everyone else in WordPress-land has been using forever.

One plugin replaced four or five (or more ) other plugins, and solved their weird conflicts and interdependencies. It even simplified how stuff is displayed on the side column (though I’m still using a creaky old method for “sideblogging” that requires me to use the horrible Safari web inteface).

Jetpack made it simple to link multiple blogs to the clean interface at WordPress.com, and also to the vastly improved (and beautifully un-distracting) editor for the WordPress for iOS app. Either way, I write a post that can be saved as a draft, and published, with NO crazymaking “lost connection, failed to save” errors. I deleted all the outdated, superfuous plugins, surrendered to the iOS app, and suddenly, it’s easy and pleasurable to write again. All the little extra doodads and widgets that I had, have Jetpack versions that are powerful, configurable, and a snap.

Once I started implementing and updating at the church website, I had one set of somewhat tedious tasks that I had been procrastinating on.

Even though “recent posts” showed up as links in the Holy Moly sidebar, the folks at church wanted to see news and upcoming events as posts on the main page, which is static. I hadn’t used “sticky” posts, I had been messing with adding excerpts by hand (and it was a pain). I looked at “under the hood” solutions that I didn’t understand, and then found one more plugin for pulling in content that is highly recommended, implemented on more than 50,000 sites, and recently updated.

Now, I have 3 different categories visible as slick sliding menus; I could make them look like a grid, or nested, or whatever. But any post I create in those 3 categories will appear on the main page of the Holy Moly site. As long as I add a featured image, they display nicely without resorting to the macro-keys I used for adding my beloved (but horribly dated) drop shadows. This is another reason I was using the horrible Safari browser interface for blogging, because it had access to my customized editor.

I went to church this morning with a clear conscience, knowing that the front page of the church website has updated content about upcoming events. Never mind about all the stuff I never got around to posting for events over the summer.

As my church chum Bill’s sermon covered forgiving a sinner up to 77 times, I figure I was stuck on 76rpm…right up until I found the way to simplify my process and just get ‘er done. The sensation of not spinning or flailing is wonderful.

No longer immobilized by stress, there’s the matter of my online social and technical obligations to tackle, and a rather big birthday coming up next week. And a new chair for my uncomfortable desk. And more bike riding. And…

Well, that’s enough to go on with for now.

Liberal Christian Ponders Stuff

I haven’t been to church in weeks. Months. This is unusual, because I like going to church, singing, seeing people.

My reasons are very trivial: I am responsible for the church website and it needs to be updated, but to do that I need to sit at my desk rather than recline on the couch or in bed. And I don’t want to dig into my photos, revamp stuff, and create a tutorial for how to update the church website for interested persons who don’t know anything about WordPress. At least, not right now. And I don’t want to be pounced on for not updating the website.

I barely know anything about WordPress, because it’s updated and changed a lot over the years, but lately I’ve been changing things around here, as practice for the changes I need to do over —–> there at the church site. We’re only talking about a few hours’ work, but I just… can’t make myself.

I’m feeling conflicted about the responsibility, and feeling overwhelmed by the amount of stuff I need to do just to get ready to revamp things. So instead of working on the church blog on my desktop, I’m dipping a toe in the waters by blogging about things in my particular flavor of mainstream liberal Christianity, the Episcopal Church.

Yes, I’m one of those psalm-singing, Anglican chant-intoning, choral Eucharist types. As a liberal church, we’re barely recognized as Christian by some strains of evangelical Christianity (or we’re seen as a diabolical corruption, but hey, we welcome everybody, so there).

Before diving in I was listening to a podcast on Stitcher (which, annnoyingly, does not provide embed codes).

The first segment really goes into depth on a lot of things, but even if you’re not interested in religion or going to church, you may be interested to know that a specific kind of evangelicals would love to take political power, and think Trump is their nearly-unwitting entree into making America over into their vision of a nation literally under God (meaning, some form of theocracy).

The first segment is about why they embrace Trump as the anointed of God. Unfortunately for them Trump is pretty clueless about religion, because it isn’t about him. Listen here: Stitcher Podcast: With Friends Like These hosted by Anamarie Cox “One God, Under Trump:

After that, the first link is the story of a historic Episcopal congregation with a branding problem: back in the early 1800’s it was called Grace Church, which happens to conform to the “naming convention” of Episcopal churches; they are named after a theological concept, or a saint, or a “feast day.” Episcopal Churches aren’t typically named for people, or places, or everyday concepts.

This particular church’s branding problem is that it’s called Robert E. Lee Memorial Church, because it’s the church where the Southern leader worshipped, confessed himself a sinner, and is buried. Now, it’s a problem for the parishioners in much the same way townspeople have a problem with a Confederate statue – is it merely historic, or does it send a message that people of color had better not cross the threshold? They’re struggling with it, and it’s likely to split the community. The local bishop doesn’t see the problem: just go back to the old name, Grace. Which would imply healing, and forgiveness – but he’s not really local and doesn’t understand the subtleties.

Virginia congregation deeply divided over church’s name honoring Robert E. Lee: [Episcopal News Service] Was Robert E. Lee an American hero or a traitorous defender of slavery? The Confederate general has been called both in the ongoing debate over whether statues, monuments and plaques in his honor should be remain on display in public places, from parks to churches. – by David Paulsen – Tags: episcopal – EDN: Virginia congregation deeply divided over church’s name

The next one is positive – instead of “why I don’t go to church?” It’s “why I go to church.” My reasons for not going will soon be outweighed by the impending start of choir season; I’ll have to update the site, make a start on the tutorial, and show up at choir practice this week. Or next week. 😉 Aside from the music, I like being part of a community. Believing is tempered by reason – science has a place in my faith. The miracles don’t matter as much as the material: be kind, be compassionate, be hopeful.

Reasons to go to church: Marilyn McEntyre writes about why she goes to church: There are lots of stories of why people don’t go to church but she offers some reasons to take another look. Excerpts A healthy church will give you access to a treasury of words and music. – by Ann Fontaine – Tags: episcopal – https://www.episcopalcafe.com/reasons-to-go-to-church/>Episcopal Cafe: Reasons To Go To Church

This last one is interesting to me because I’ve attended a small Episcopal parish (more than one) that’s struggled to do the work with just a few people. Not as few as this one, but something amazing happened to them when they opened their doors to refugees. It’s the tale of what happens AFTER a split – based on the time period, it was probably over the ordination of a gay bishop and the acknowledgment that a LOT of the clergy in the church were (and are) gay. It’s that welcoming thing again. This little church found a way to welcome that completely changed them (which was hard and painful) but transformative in a good way.

‘All Saints’ movie details how refugees saved struggling Episcopal church: [Episcopal News Service] After a split over theology in the 1990s, there were only 12 members of the congregation left at All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Smyrna, Tennessee, a suburb south of Nashville. The church couldn’t pay its mortgage. By 2007, the church was in danger of closing. – by Amy Sowder – Tags: episcopal – All Saints movie: how refugees saved struggling Episcopal church

That’s it –

Why didn’t the Episcopal Church split after the election of a gay bishop?

The 2003 election Bishop Gene Robinson as the Episcopal Church’s first openly gay bishop set off an internal debate within the Episcopal Church caused Professor Mathew Sheep, Business Professor at Illinois State University,  to ask how the church would respond and how it was that the Episcopal

from Pocket http://ift.tt/1Lv4Eua
via IFTTT

Why be Episcopalian?

THE MAGAZINE by Lisa Fischbeck “I don’t have any desire to be an Episcopalian. I just like the Church of the Advocate,” says the man who has been coming to the Advocate for 5 years. The Bishop’s visitation is ahead, and I’m trying to identify people who might want to get confirmed.

from Pocket http://ift.tt/1KUgXmK
via IFTTT

Storycorps: “Oh Mama, I Knew You’d Come”

Ruth Coker Burks was a young mother in her 20s when the AIDS epidemic hit her home state of Arkansas in the early 1980s. She took it upon herself to care for AIDS patients who were abandoned by their families, and even by medical professionals, who feared the disease.

Coker Burks, now 55, has no medical training, but she estimates that she has cared for nearly 1,000 people over the past three decades, including her friend Paul Wineland’s partner.

She became involved after visiting a friend at a Little Rock hospital where one of the state’s early AIDS patients was dying. “The nurses were drawing straws to see who would go in and check on him,” Coker Burks tells Wineland at StoryCorps in Hot Springs, Ark.

“And so I snuck into his room. And he wanted his mama. And so I marched myself out to the nurses’ station and I said, ‘Can we call his mother?’ And they go, ‘Honey, his mama’s not coming. He’s been here six weeks. Nobody’s coming.’

“And so I went back in and he looked up at me and he said, ‘Oh, Mama, I knew you’d come.’ I stayed with him for 13 hours while he took his last breath. I called his mother and I told her that he had died and she said, ‘I’m not burying him.’ So I had him cremated and I brought him home.”

Caring For AIDS Patients, 'When No One Else Would' : NPR.

Earlier today, this Storycorps installment made me burst into sobs. I was reminded of some Seattle friends who died of AIDS; I knew a few people whose family had abandoned them to their fate and left them to rely on the kindness of strangers. I know people who volunteered at AIDS hospices years ago in the Chicago area, too. They had also sat with the dying, because the families would not be there for them, in all senses.

The sobs came when Coker Burks said “Oh Mama, I knew you’d come.”

I was overcome with grief for an unknown mother’s son, and had to log out of my work phone line for a few seconds so I wouldn’t be caught crying on the line if a call came in.

I sobbed for the son who wanted his mama, and for the mama who would not come, and for the kind woman who stood in for so many mothers and fathers who would not, or could not, be there for their sons and daughters, dying of AIDS.

Those were dark days, but thank God for Ruth Coker Burks. It reallly did get better because of people like her.

Liberal Christian Urges Kirk Cameron To Mind His Own Beeswax About Cherished Holiday Traditions

Former child actor and current talentless hack Kirk Cameron has taken upon himself to save Christmas from Christians that he doesn’t consider to be Christian enough, and from everyone else that is of any other persuasion, too. Because only Kirk Cameron’s Christmas is the righteous, holy, and most Jesus-y one, apparently. And now with seasonal Halloween, too!

Can’t wait for the inevitable Thanksgiving video, with a working title of “SATAN is at ur tabel, eatin ur turkiy,” because cognitive dissonance is always such a hoot.

Like other Christianist loudmouths (and Bill O’Reilly, who’s just a loudmouth) the One True Christmas for which Kirk Cameron pines is all about bringing the unchurched masses of America and the world to Jesus Christ. All other ways of keeping Christmas, even if it’s strictly secular and centered on shopping, gifting, and enjoying family and friends, are simply not acceptable to Cameron. Most of us actually enjoy the hustle-bustle of the modern American Christmas, although I tend to like the quieter, more spiritual aspects, the music, and the pretty holiday displays rather than the rugby scrum that Christmas shopping has become.

Perhaps Kirk Cameron thinks the Devil makes us do it differently than he does, and therefore it must be saved from us heathens. Saved! SAVED IN THE BLOOD OF JEEEEZ-US. Or whatever.

What an ass. No, what a self-righteous, pompous early-onset male pattern bald-faced middle-aged ass.

I’ve been aware for years of Cameron and his yawping ilk, demanding that Christmas be saved from the clutches of, I don’t know, rampant commercialism and simpering Hallmark-card secularism. And I’ve ignored him for decades. By contrast, in the last 15 years or so, I’ve kept Christmas pretty well, singing and celebrating at Christmas Eve services at Holy Innocents Episcopal Church, and then later at St Nicholas Episcopal Church since moving to Illinois.

As a “churched” liberal Christian, I am perfectly comfortable with the idea that not everyone celebrates Christmas at all (hello, my honey! hello, my inlaws! Hello, my Jewish extended family!). I’m also comfortable with people who were raised as Christians in name only, who might or might not attend church twice a year, otherwise known as “C. and E. Christians.”

It turns out I was raised in just such a family that didn’t go to church except for major holidays (also weddings, christenings, and funerals). My mom and I were an anomaly, we actually liked attending and participating the rest of the year. That was when my quarterly Sunday communion might consist of cubed Wonder-Bread and grape juice in little individual shot glasses; now I’m all about the weekly Eucharist of hand-baked bread and wine in a shared silver cup, blessed by the hands of Father Manny and others.

Still, I have great affection for Christians who show up for Christmas and Easter. They’re the people filling the seats in church for the big festival services, where we in the choir are singing our hearts (and throats) out. They’re the people I work hardest for, months before each holiday, rehearsing with the Choir of St Nicholas and half-killing myself with the singing and the late night rehearsals and big festival services.

Casual Christians get my most technically challenging musical efforts, if they happen to drop by St Nick’s, but I give my best effort for the normal Sunday services and occasional “lesser feasts,” too. They say that she who sings once, prays twice, and I do pray as I sing that it is acceptable, pleasing, and for God’s sake, in tune! Also that my (pretty modest) efforts in the alto section might help to move someone’s heart to lift in a moment of transcendance. Yet, they don’t have to believe as I believe. They just have to feel something beyond themselves and be transported, and that is fine with me.

As a “churched” liberal Christian, I am deeply offended by Kirk Cameron’s posturing on the need to “save” Christmas, and suspect that the real motive for his madness is to somehow remain in the public eye, since his career went in the crapper after Growing Pains ended. Oh, if only Alan Thicke’s real-life son Robin had been old enough for the role, what a very different and twerky world we would live in now!

Now Cameron wants to “save” Halloween, a holiday I also hold dear although I don’t celebrate it properly any more. He wants Christians to turn it into an opportunity to preach the Gospel to people who, frankly, are probably not all that interested in anything he has to say. If people like Kirk Cameron hadn’t turned them off by being righteous assholes, un-spiritual people might actually discover for themselves that when you strip out all the Bible-thumper rhetoric, Jesus had some radically Good News for the world, and a new way to honor God and all His Creation – by loving one another, caring for the poor, and healing the world. An atheist can even “get” the message of Jesus without the need to believe, too. This world could very well be all we’ve got, so we should at least treat it and each other better.

At last, the second or third half of this post! Would you like a cookie, some pumpkin juice, or a butterbeer? What’s a little sorcery and witchcraft, when people of fair to middling intelligence know there’s no such thing?

ANYway, to continue, to digress, and to finally get to the thing that set me off on this merry tirade:

Yesterday, the comic and “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D” actor Patton Oswalt laid this gem upon the breast of the Twitterverse, and it was good.

Curious as to what inspired that comment, after a quick stop to remind myself who Travis Bickle was, I looked around and found that Kirk Cameron has decided that Halloween needs to be taken back from the Satan-worshiping scarily costumed candy-gobbling trick-or-treaters.

Well, I always thought kids weren’t for me, but I didn’t think they were all THAT evil.

Also, that would be a great Halloween costume for Kirk Cameron – the mohawk, the moral rigidity, the martyr complex: it’s too perfect.

Halloween isn’t the only holiday on Cameron’s radar. Next month, he’s releasing a film called "Saving Christmas," aimed at restoring religion to the holiday.

via Kirk Cameron Urges Christians To Celebrate Halloween By Sharing The Gospel.

It’s all about getting publicity for the “Saving Christmas” movie, and it’s all about trying to restore the tawdry lustre to his long-faded Hollywood star. I suspect it’s not about bringing souls to Jesus and defeating Satan, it’s about bringing eyeballs to the screen and courting Mammon.

So this, too, offends me. Both as a liberal Christian and as a former candy-gobbling trick-or-treater, I’m comfortable with the old pagan customs that survive in the modern celebration of Halloween, and of course I’ve attended a few All Saints/Souls services in my time (usually at other Episcopal churches, we usually don’t put do one unless it falls on a Saturday or Sunday).

I’m sure that Mr More Christiany Than Thou Cameron has no idea what All Hallows’ Eve, All Saint’s Day, or All Souls Day even mean to “liturgical” Christians like me. Apparently, his way of celebrating Halloween, Christmas, and other cherished holidays forgets the old traditions and long-sacred ceremony, brings no meaningful modern reinterpretation, and strips out any remaining beauty, color, and poetry. A rich, deeply refreshing liturgy is replaced with whatever bland, multi-media production Cameron thinks is sufficiently Christian to avoid self-offense.

Blech. Sorry, I can’t even.

As a liberal Christian, I’m comfortable with commemorating the dead, remembering the saints, and dressing up to literally laugh in the face of Death. I can even celebrate a formerly pagan Harvest Festival with something more creative and warmly generous in spirit as the season turns toward winter (WARNING: SHAMELESS PLUGS FOR ST NICK’S HARVEST FAIR AND ALSO THE CHRISTMAS CD WOOHOO).

Yes, in case you didn’t know, St Nick’s is putting on its own Harvest Fair – A Gathering of Artisans this year. It’s a tradition that many English churches follow, and American and Canadian churches too, but the emphasis will be on quality and on celebrating the creativity of our St Nick’s community.

Please visit our Harvest Fairpage on Facebook and LIKE and SHARE so that lots of people in the area of Elk Grove Village and the Chicagoland area might find out about it, it’s our first year. We’ve got handmade soap, jewelry, and other treasures lined up and waiting to be discovered, and there’s more room for artisans to take a table or a partial table!

Last year we celebrated Halloween with a daylight Trick or Trunk event where parishioners at St Nick’s decorated the trunks of their cars and the backs of their mini-vans and SUVs and gave out candy to the youngest neighborhood children. I think there was a circuit of several churches that put it on in the area. It was a fun event that was enjoyed by very small costumed witches and demons (Ooooh! Scary, Kirk Cameron! BOO!). This year we’re offering some nice treats and no tricks to older kids of all ages with the Harvest Fair.

Meanwhile, there’s a pumpkin out in front of the front doors of St Nick’s… not sure why, but it’s creative and certainly in keeping with the season and with the neighborhood (Elk Grove Village is known for its Halloween and Christmas displays).

Sunday, Christmas comes early to St Nicholas (actually it’s been coming since about May of last year. The Choir of St Nicholas is recording a Christmas CD called NOEL: Christmas At St Nicholas Episcopal Church. I get to sing on it, it will be available for a small donation, but can be pre-ordered.. We’re going to a real recording studio Sunday after the regular 10am service to do it, and then if you like, you can drop by at about 8pm on Christmas Eve (December 24, for those of you who don’t do church much) and hear it all LIVE. Like a CONCERT, but with praying and communion and stuff. You are most welcome. Here’s what it’ll look like, my husband David took the photo at the 2012 service.

CD: Noel: Christmas at St Nicholas

Does this Christmas look like it needs saving? Does this Halloween need to be taken back? NOPE.

So thank you but no thank you, Kirk Cameron, you can mind your own beeswax about cherished holiday traditions like Halloween and Christmas. You celebrate them how you see fit, but don’t tell other people how they should do it. The Devil is not involved, and neither is Bigfoot and the Easter Bunny.

You may think you’re contesting with Satan (who is a metaphorical construct, in my opinion) and you may complain about rampant secularism, but the truth is, most people don’t really pay much attention to you. You’re not very relevant now, and you were not a cultural influence when Growing Pains was on the air, either. It was merely mass entertainment to the lowest common denominator. It was commercial pap, and certainly not as influential as The Cosby Show, for example.

Actually, Kirk Cameron’s Mike Seaver was never fit to tie Theo Huxtable’s basketball shoes – now that was a groundbreaking show about an American family struggling to instill good values (and it was a lot funnier). More people “got the message” about how to treat each other from watching that show, which didn’t preach, but did persuade. The message that people got from Cameron’s show was that hisbest friend’s name was Boner, until he mysteriously ran off and joined the Marines. The teen heart-throb Mike character was an insufferable schemer, until a real-life conversion experience revealed Cameron to be one of those self-important Christianists who beats everybody over the head with the baby Jesus. After becoming insufferably holy, he insisted on storyline changes, script changes, and had a co-star fired.

I had totally forgotten what a pimple Kirk Cameron was in the 90’s.

Meanwhile, it could be argued that his not-very-charitable behavior toward his co-stars and the producers, after becoming a foam-at-the-mouth Bible beater, led to the steep ratings decline and eventual cancellation of his only claim to fame. Huh.

Yes, preach (and rant) on about needing to save Christmas, Kirk Cameron. But will you be singing the old carols on Christmas Eve, and receiving Christ in the bread and wine while the glorious anthems rise to Heaven? Will you be bringing canned goods to drop off anonymously at the door of your local food pantry, as our neighbors and support group members do at ours? I don’t think so. You’ll be attending premieres and media events held in auditoriums, trying to flog DVD sales. Frankly, I’d rather help flog our CD sales.

Yes, anyone celebrating Halloween by dressing up, playing tricks and sharing treats is not a pagan, not a Satanist, not a devil-worshipper; they’re someone who enjoys the traditions of All Hallows’ Eve, and has fun with its modern equivalent.

Yes, even a Christian can celebrate All Hallows’ Eve; the colors (orange and black) are a reminder of some very old Christian traditions. In England, groups of people dressed in black used to go out “souling” door-to-door (begging for soul-cakes in exchange for Christian prayers for the dead, in the Anglican tradition) before the three days of “All Hallowtide.” The yellowish-orange beeswax candles that were carried in such processions, along with other things like carved turnips, became the other color associated with Halloween. In the US, orange pumpkins were easier to carve into what originally a lantern to guide lost souls. People would pray that the wandering souls would find rest and not do mischief, and they would disguise themselves in costumes to avoid their wrath. Sometimes they dressed up as saints, too.

Woops, it looks like the Christians already took back Halloween, some centuries ago. Rather than saving holidays that don’t need saving, why not protest one of those pop-up Spirit stores instead, or criticize home improvement stores for putting fall and winter holiday displays on sale in August?

A true Halloween can be just a fun candy holiday, or the lead-in to a generic harvest festival, or even a family gathering at Thanksgiving (I can hardly wait for Cameron to hit that one). And with the addition of All Saints/All Souls, Halloween is an opportunity to reflect on how life and death are linked, and how facing our demons, commemorating our saints, and remembering our dead is part of being human.

It always used to annoy me at work when the annual Halloween extravaganza would come around – most of us would be decorating and working on our team presentation for the costume contests, and a few unhappy, joyless Christianists would be complaining that the decorations were too scary and too Satanic. They wouldn’t participate, and would take the day off to avoid all the… fun. That’s okay, more candy for us.

Sure, it was hectic, but they were literally killjoys and fortunately there were only one or two. The same few even objected to Christmas decorations in the office, or Hanukkah decor at one co-worker’s desk. In their narrow minds, those symbols were somehow evil, pagan and of the Devil. They would have been happiest if there were NO seasonal displays, since ALL the holidays were tainted because they were, yes, pagan in origin. Nothing should be celebrated or enjoyed if it had any start in a non-Biblical tradition, in their view.

Cameron wants to turn Halloween into a big thunder-and-brimstone Bible fest. Does it need saving? No.

A person needn’t be Christian to enjoy the true meaning of Christmas if they wish, though unfortunately they can hardly escape it if they don’t. My late Jewish mammeleh-in-law even liked the holiday lighting displays and some of the music. Yes, without the crass commercialism, and the evil corporatism of Black Friday (and Thursday!) shopping stampedes at Thanksgiving, the Christmas season isn’t the Norman Rockwell painting of our shared nostalgia. Let’s not forget, Santa Claus was popularized by newspaper editors from a poem by an Episcopalian academic, with an image makeover in the late 40’s by a soft drink company. Like a comic book character, his true origin story reveals his secret identity: ta-da!! he’s SAINT NICHOLAS.

A true Christmas is a gathering of loved ones and friends, with food and warmth, and color, and music, while remembering the less fortunate and the lonely. Does that need saving? No. Bam! said the lady, no.

And now, I can’t bring myself to watch his trailer to see what he wants to do to “save” Christmas. Who does he think he is? Jesus Christ.

Yep. That’s why he’s more holier than thou, and me, and everybody.

Are we living in the 1st Century, or the 21st Century? Some of these Christianists need to get a modern life. Neither Halloween nor Christmas need saving, except perhaps from former child stars long past their pull date, and FAUX Noise pundits shooting off their pieholes in the annual “War On Christmas.”

Mind your own beeswax, Kirk Cameron. Save your sanity instead.

Remembering Pete Seeger: The Banks Of Marble

My friend the late Fr. Paul Brouillette was huge Seeger fan and fellow banjo player; he once played and sang this in church. He was that kind of guy, and today he welcomes his hero to the celestial jam session.

I once heard a young Occupy Chicago protester sing it via a live Internet feed. Still relevant, still rousing the rabble, Seeger’s passing means the banksters have one less whiny folksinger to criticize them.

Talking Heads Praise Pope’s Concern for Poor, Ignore Own Part in Austerity Politics

Crooks and Liars, on the new Pope:

They probably weren’t hired for their introspection, but it’s still a little startling when you see how little responsibility Beltway media types take for pushing austerity politics.

It’s interesting, I think, that the Beltway newsreaders (and certain ultra-conservative cardinals) are so enthusiastic about Pope Francis and his concern for the poor — without a moment’s introspection about their own part in enabling the politicians and policies that somehow always benefit the members of their own class and kick poor people in the teeth.

Via Crooks and Liars

Smallest Jewish congregation in U.S. fights for survival in Mattoon IL

MATTOON, IL—

Proud to be known as the heart of the Illinois Bible Belt, the residents of Mattoon fill dozens of Christian churches. Theres also one Jewish congregation, which has the distinction of being the smallest Reform synagogue in North America. The membership? Four households.

The Mattoon Jewish Community Center isnt a center at all but a group of dedicated congregants who meet in Trinity Episcopal Church. Even at Yom Kippur — the holiest of Holy Days, when this week synagogues in Chicago were packed — the worshippers at this prairie outpost strained to hit double digits.

via Smallest Jewish congregation in U.S. fights for survival in Illinois – chicagotribune.com

One of my favorite family members lives south of Mattoon. Aside from occasional visits home, she rarely gets to attend services or events in her Jewish heritage. It’s kind of sad and frustrating; she was raised in a Jewish home but was never able to participate fully in all the milestone events, other than as an observer.

There’s no way she could travel to Mattoon to attend the occasional Sabbath service; the logistics just don’t work. But it was interesting to read about this small Reform congregation in her part of the state, and I’m glad that an Episcopal congregation has given them a home when it became impossible to maintain their building.