The Good Samaritan

November 23, 2015

In the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 10, Verses 25-37 Jesus is asked about loving your neighbor. In response Jesus defines who is a neighbor with this parable:

“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him for dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled , came where the man was, and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘ Look after him’ he said, ‘ and when I return I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

Jesus then asked, “Which of these three do you think was the neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” It was obvious to all present with Jesus – ” The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus then says, ” Go and do likewise.”

This powerful parable of the Samaritan should serve as a guide for all Christians in this country and indeed around the world as they are asked to show mercy to those Syrian refugees who have been beaten down by the Assad regime and left “half dead.” Sadly, politicians who claim to be avid readers and supporters of the Bible’s message choose to ignore the words of Jesus when it comes to responding to the poor, the hungry, the displaced. Christians are supposed to be followers of Christ.

The Samaritan, a foreigner, got the message of Jesus and went out of his way to help someone in need. Being a modern day Samaritan is certainly filled with challenges and sacrifices, but as this country debates the fate of thousands of Syrian refugees it is helpful to remember the good deed of this stranger on the road to Jericho.




Being Safe and Sorry

November 19, 2015

In the wake of the Paris massacre and the yet unproven link between one of the terrorists and Syrian migrants, the Congress, most of the nation’s governors and the American people soundly reject President Obama’s decision to take in 10,000 refugees next year. The opposition to Obama’s promise is based not just on national security concerns and a lack of faith in the vetting process of the Syrians, both legitimate reasons, but a more sinister rejection of Islam and those people who hold to that religion, no matter what hardships they have endured.

When Ben Carson uses the term “dogs” in reference to the Syrians. Donald Trump pledges to close mosques, Jeb Bush wants only to protect Christian Syrians, and Ted Cruz talks makes off handed remarks about internment camps, it becomes quickly obvious that stopping Obama’s plan is more than just about national security and bureaucratic incompetence.

To use a word often used by former president George H.W.Bush, it would be prudent to delay any Syrian refugee resettlement program until the United States and its allies get a better handle on terrorist sleeper cells and lone wolf fanatics, and construct a comprehensive international strategy to destroy ISIL and its caliphate that bridges Syria and Iraq. It is just common sense to sort out the threat, build better intelligence networks, beef up security and go after ISIL where they live.

But because we are in an election cycle of enormous importance to the nation, fear too easily overwhelms reason and common sense. Let’s not forget that the 1st Amendment protects the ” free exercise ” of religion, Lady Liberty welcomes the oppressed – ” give me your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free.” and we as a people have always taken pride in the long and proud tradition of tolerating differences, ( and oh yes, Steve Jobs’ father was a Syrian immigrant).

It is important that we as a people not let fear take over our lives and religious bigotry rule the day. The prudent course of action is to fashion an entry system for Syrian refugees that is not haphazard and filled with bureaucratic exceptions. This will take some time. But let us not as a nation fall prey to those who are anxious to make this an anti-Muslim crusade and make the all the followers of Islam into terrorists.






Campus Turmoil?

November 13, 2015

As usual when an event out of the ordinary appears on the media/campaign radar charges and counter-charges fly in the wind, pundits have a field day and gross generalizations rule supreme. So now the issue of the day is campus turmoil over claims of racism, administrative weakness and political correctness, with the first shot fired at the University of Missouri.

There is little doubt that many African-American students at Mizzou have experienced subtle and overt racism, usually in the form of speech – the N word – or symbols – hanging nooses tied to dorm room doors. But as with any mega-university the vast majority of students pay little attention to the smoldering controversy in large part because they are not party to such reprehensible actions. As is the case with most protests, a well-organized and vocal minority gets the attention of the powers that be and push the envelop.

What was different about the charges of systemic racism at the University of Missouri was that the football team joined the protest and refused to play until the president resigned. Now most presidents of institutions of higher learning would have promised to look into the charges, formed a blue ribbon commission and pledged to make reforms. But at Mizzou, there was a potential loss of $ 2 million in football revenue if the team did not play, and so the president, who appeared clueless, caved in to the bottom line and walked away.

Now the protest movement has spread to a few schools, again led by a small minority who make similar claims of racism. But what is most disturbing is that higher education has entered a phase in which every word and action made by administrators, faculty and students is examined for alleged racist or discriminatory content. Rather than working on campus to deal with real racial issues such as greater minority access to college, programs to create a truly integrated environment among students, bringing in speakers and mentors who have expertise in race relations, and hiring bold leaders who aren’t afraid to tell the student body to treat all members of the campus community with respect, the controversy becomes fodder for cable news and presidential debates.

But while it is easy to get caught up in the PC atmosphere on campus, it is far more important to admit that racism exists in this country and that people of color experience major life challenges in a white world. Sure small student groups have become experts at playing the PC card, but it is the climate of racism that needs to be addressed not because a $ 2 million football deal is at stake but because too many white people still do not respect or tolerate differences and then wonder why minorities are angry.

Be Very Afraid

November 10, 2015

If I were Hillary Clinton I would pray daily to the God of the Electoral College that Marco Rubio does not become the nominee of the Republican Party. Also if I was Hillary and still praying I would ask the God of the Electoral College to have the wingnuts of the right wing stay at home on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November and pout that Trump, Carson, Cruz, Huckabee,and Paul never made it to the big show.

Hillary should be very afraid of Rubio. Not only is he handsome and youthful, but he has a great personal story, impressive debating skills, and most importantly the ability to make sense from a conservative perspective without sounding like he is a bit off the wall. Add to the scenario that he is Hispanic and comes from the key state of Florida and Hillary should remain very afraid

Of course this is only November and Jeb hasn’t given up the ship as one of the Republicans who is not a goofy entertainer, or a rather odd physician or an angry member of Congress, but the smart money is increasingly heading to Rubio and the Clinton camp is working overtime planning how to counteract the 2016 version of Barack Obama.

Hillary has some powerful arguments on the campaign trail – an improving economy, the tone deaf positions of the GOP on women and minorities, and the growing scandal of income inequality and equal pay. But Rubio comes across as someone who is trustworthy and earnest, two qualities sorely lacking in Hillary.

It’s a long, long way till the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November, that would be November 8th, but Marco Rubio could be the savior of a fractured Republican Party and the next occupant of the White House.


November 6, 2015

Whether further investigation of the downed Russian passenger plane in the Sinai desert proves that terrorists did NOT plant a plastique device inside the Airbus is now irrelevant. European leaders, the Obama administration and airline experts are all backing the theory that ISIL and its affiliates in Egypt were behind the mid-air explosion that left 244 Russians dead. As many have said, this alleged attack is a game changer.

Now the attention turns to international travel safety and the ability of government security agencies to protect passengers from terrorists attacks. If past performance is any guide our airport security agency, the TSA, does not foster a great deal of confidence. Time after time TSA agents were shown to be negligent in spotting dangerous items that were part of regular test operations conducted by undercover officials of the agency. Yes, TSA agents were able to find most hidden devices in carry-on bags on in luggage, but a failure rate of around 5% is certainly not reassuring to passengers in this new age of terrorism.

We may be approaching a time when carry-on bags are forbidden, passengers are patted down with regularity and random individual screenings are the norm. And you thought taking off your shoes was a pain – the new regimen will certainly make the traveling experience a real chore.

But if indeed the downing of the Russian Airbus was caused by a terrorist bomb, major changes in security will need to be put in place ASAP. It is not enough to fly around the Sinai Peninsula, nations will have to put in place Israeli-style procedures that incorporate layers and layers of security that involve not just high-tech machinery but diligent and sometimes aggressive security agents at various stops along the way to boarding a plane.

Some will say that the only way to guarantee security is to crush ISIL with a major international military force. That decision may be implemented sooner than most people think, especially if these attacks on airlines continue. But for the moment security changes to ward off ISIL inspired attacks by the TSA must begin ASAP.

The More Things Stay The Same, The More They Change

September 28, 2015

Pope Francis has left the United States and is back at the Vatican. His speeches to Congress, the United Nations and the Conference on Families, along with his sermons, visits to those in need and distress and his rock star presence to the faithful and faithless, have re-energized the Catholic Church in this country and solidified his position as a moral leader to be reckoned with.

So what can we make of the Pope’s visit to the United States? First and foremost it is important to recognize that Francis is not an ideologue in the sense that we have come to understand that term. He is not a liberal or a conservative; rather he is doctrinaire, meaning that he is committed to upholding the long established doctrines of the Catholic Church.

As he spoke throughout his visit it became clear that Francis is not going to budge from the Church’s position on male only priests, the traditional view of marriage, religious liberty, opposition to birth control, and of course the right to life ( not just abortion but his surprising opposition to capital punishment). Even opening up the sacraments to divorced Catholics is just wishful thinking and speculation. For those hoping that the Pope would champion change in church doctrine, those hopes must be dashed.

But what the Pope has changed is the Catholic Church’s long dormant commitment to the poor, the disenfranchised, the immigrant, the forgotten. Pope Francis exhibits boundless humanity and is using his moral authority to remind all of us that we must work for justice, peace, cooperation, and opportunity for all. Although Francis did not use the words, ” Can we all just get along”, his constant message is that we have an obligation as humans to help those in need, to protect the planet, to work with our enemies, and to ensure that no one is left behind.

It will be interesting to see the impact of the Pope’s messages on those who wield power in every sector of American society. The media gushed over the Pope, political leaders took a break from their penchant for piling on, and Americans who watched and listened began thinking about the homeless, climate change, income inequality, immigration, and equal opportunity. The Pope reminded all who would listen about the Golden Rule, Jesus’ commitment to the underclass, and the human value of seeing the face of God in those who have little or are demonized.

It is certainly fair to state that the Pope’s visit was a huge success, but not from the standpoint of changing the foundations of the Catholic Church. Rather the visit was a success in that it reminded us of our responsibility to give of ourselves, to help others, to do good, and to live a life of love and peace. That’s a powerful message of change by any measure.

Tom Brady, Fandom and Priorities

September 9, 2015

If you are a sports nut you probably came across an ESPN Boston poll in which 20% of the respondents stated that the judicial decision to throw out the four game suspension of Tom Brady was ” The Best Day of My Life” or as Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy mused, as better than their engagement or wedding, the birth of their child or years of friendship with their “bestie.” Whoa! Now that’s a statistic to ponder for a bit.

The whole Deflategate was a childish sideline to punish the Patriots for cheating (which still may be justified) instead of concentrating on concussion compensation, spousal abuse, performing enhancing drugs and general criminal behavior. But when 20%. of the fans equate the decision to ” Free Brady” with the signature events in most people’s lives that says something about how screwed up football aficionados have become in these parts. Boston was recently named the “best” sports town in America and perhaps this poll gives credence to that status- “best” perhaps meaning misplaced priorities.

The Patriots season starts tomorrow and if the team, the coach and the owner aren’t embroiled in another distracting scandal, the Pats should be headed to the Superbowl again. But as they move toward another championship it would be nice, or more to the point, mature, if the fandom recognized the obvious – football is a game played by men who make a lot of money and really don’t care too much about the adoring fans. Patriots football is not war, anti-terrorism, resettling thousands of sad people or police being executed; no, it is a game.

Changing the sporting habits of the ” Get a Lifers” in the stands and in front of the flat screen television is not in the cards – wives have given in to Sunday afternoons with the boys in their man caves sucking down beers and family time whenever a game is on has become Patriots time. It used to be the phrase most remembered by families on Sunday was, ” The family that prays together, stays together.” That wise proclamation has now been replaced by ” The family that worships the Patriots, rarely talk to each other.” If we could only get our priorities straight.


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