Monthly Archives: August 2023

On St. Bart 2023 – and more mass-shooting massacre…

candlelight vigil – for one of 947 mass shootings in the last two years and 214 days?

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Thursday, August 24, was the Feast day for St.  Bartholomew. (“Bart,” a.k.a. Bartholomew the Apostle.) The next major Feast Day – not counting Labor Day – is Holy Cross Day, on September 14.* On that next Thursday – coming up some two weeks from now – I’ll be in Lyon, in France, getting ready for a 15-day 150-mile hike on the GR 70. (The Robert Louis Stevenson Trail.)

But before leaving I wanted to say something about Bartholomew, and massacres, in his day and ours. And something about how they haven’t gone away, they’ve just changed form.*

Unfortunately, St. Bartholomew is best known for a massacre on his feast day in 1572:

The St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre … in 1572 was a targeted group of assassinations and a wave of Catholic mob violence, directed against the Huguenots…  Though by no means unique, it “was the worst of the century’s religious massacres.”  Throughout Europe, it “printed on Protestant minds the indelible conviction that Catholicism was a bloody and treacherous religion.”

But of course there’s more to his story than that. For one thing he was also “famous” – if you want to call it that – for being flayed alive. “In artistic depictions, Bartholomew is most commonly depicted holding his flayed skin and the knife with which he was skinned.” Which is why I didn’t include any images of that martyrdom here. We get enough gore just reading the news…

Which brings up Man’s Inhumanity to Man Mean. Neither that nor massacres have gone away. That inhumanity has merely “changed form.” Or as the poet Robert Burns wrote, Man was made to Mourn. (Where the term “man’s inhumanity to man” first came from.)

Which is another way of saying we have problems of our own to deal with these days. Like the fact that such massacres as the one in 1572 haven’t gone away. For example, in my 2019 post On Gun Nuts and bulls goring I addressed a problem still with us, four years later. (And “even more so.”) The post started off talking about St. Bartholomew and “his” massacre, then morphed into the rising tide of mass shootings today. The post also talked about one conservative politician who said we don’t need responsible gun laws because “when Cain killed Abel, God didn’t blame the rock.” That argument didn’t make sense then, and still doesn’t. In response to that claim – “mass shootings are the price of freedom” – I cited Exodus 21:28-29:

If a bull gores a man or woman to death, the bull is to be stoned to death…  But the owner of the bull will not be held responsible. If, however, the bull has had the habit of goring and the owner has been warned but has not kept it penned up and it kills a man or woman, the bull is to be stoned and its owner also is to be put to death.

So it’s true that God didn’t “blame the rock” for killing Abel. But He does blame the owner of a goring bull when that owner doesn’t stop more bull-gorings from happening.

According to Exodus 21:28-29, the owner of a bull who keeps killing can’t just say, “Don’t blame me! Blame the bull!” The Bible says that the owner is responsible if he doesn’t keep a second death from happening. (“Or the third, or the 3,788th.”) And to me that principle applies to America today, as when it knows the danger of repeated, ongoing mass-killing-by-firearm but does nothing to stop it. Or even cut down the number of murders a bit.

And the problem has gotten worse since 2019. See for example United States tops 400 mass shootings in 2023 | CNN Politics. Dated July 24, 2023 – just about a month ago – it said as of that date the U.S. had 400 mass shootings, “setting the stage for a record-breaking year in gun violence without any significant federal firearm legislation on the horizon.”

America reached the grim figure on Saturday, July 22, “the earliest in a year 400 shootings have been recorded since at least 2013… In 2019, it took 356 days – nearly the entire year – to hit 400 mass shootings. This year and in 2021, however, the United States reached that marker in just seven months.”

There’s more on St. Bart in the notes, but as for “his” 1572 massacre, someone finally took responsibility. Here’s what Pope John Paul II said, in 1997 in Paris, site of the massacre:

On the eve of Aug. 24, we cannot forget the sad massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Day… Christians did things which the Gospel condemns. I am convinced that only forgiveness, offered and received, leads little by little to a fruitful dialogue… Belonging to different religious traditions must not constitute today a source of opposition and tension. On the contrary, our common love for Christ impels us to seek tirelessly the path of full unity.

On that note, here’s hoping that some day we too in America may begin a “fruitful dialogue.” Like a dialog on how we can stop – or at least cut down – the great number of mass shootings that presently plague our nation. Which brings up the New Testament reading for Sunday, August 27. (Proper 16.) It’s from Romans 12, but the key passage that hit me was Romans 12:2. In the NLT it reads, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.”

Which is pretty much the point I tried to make in “Love one another.” (And thereby get Transformed, like Jesus got Transfigured.) Maybe, eventually, with God’s help, we can finally transform ourselves into a new country. A better country where we no longer think that putting up with so many mass-shooting massacres is “the price of freedom.” Maybe, if we can transform enough, we can have both freedom and an end to so many needless killings…

Let’s just hope we don’t have to wait that 425 years* this time…

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The upper image is courtesy of Mass Shooting – Image Results. I borrowed the image from 2019’s On Gun Nuts and bulls goring. (Together with the caption.) Unfortunately it’s still relevant today, if not even more so. The 2019 post also included this:

The photo accompanies an article, “Stop blaming the mentally ill for mass shootings.” With a comment by conservative author Ann Coulter:“Guns don’t kill people, the mentally ill do.” The article noted less than 5 percent of the “120,000 gun-related killings in the U.S. between 2001 and 2010 were committed by people diagnosed with mental illness.”  Instead, people with mental illness were more likely to be victims. “You’re more likely to be attacked by other people, more likely to be shot,” one professor said. “You’re odd. You’re a target.”  Also, mass shootings are most often attributed to things like disgruntled workers or family disputes. “It’s loss of control by people who are extremely angry.”  Finally the article said efforts to link mental illness and violence are “a political strategy to turn attention away from more serious efforts to restrict access to the means of violence – which is guns.”

The Book of Common Prayer reference. The “corporate-mystical” prayer is on page 339, the post-communion prayer for Holy Eucharist, Rite I.

Holy Cross Day is preceded in the Daily Office by readings for the Eve of Holy Cross: Psalms 4687, 1 Kings 8:22-30Ephesians 2:11-22. See also On Holy Cross, Matthew, and Michael – “Archangel,” from October 2018. “Holy Cross Day is one of several Feasts of the Cross, all of which ‘commemorate the cross used in the crucifixion of Jesus:’”

In English, it is called The Exaltation of the Holy Cross in the official translation of the Roman Missal, while the 1973 translation called it The Triumph of the Cross.  In some parts of the Anglican Communion the feast is called Holy Cross Day…

 “Just changed form.” A restatement of the First law of thermodynamics, which I first mentioned back in 2014’s On Ascension Day. I said then that Law was “proof positive that the human soul – a definite form of energy – is neither ‘created nor destroyed, but simply changes form.’” 

On God not punishing the rock, see Top NC Republican on Mass Shootings: “Cain Killed Abel.” (To which the writer responded, “It’s so weird how gun violence has nothing to do with guns.”) 

On recent mass shootings, see also List of mass shootings in the United States in 2023 – Wikipedia.

For this post I borrowed from 2017’s On St. Bartholomew – and “his” Massacre, from 2019’s On Gun Nuts and bulls goring. I also borrowed from 2018’s On Jesus “cracking wise,” and from an earlier On Jesus “cracking wise”, from 2015. See also Nathanael (follower of Jesus) – Wikipedia, and also Meet Nathanael – The Apostle Believed to Be Bartholomew. From which came this:

[T]he name “Bartholomaios” means “son of Talmai” (or Tholmai), but that little else is known about him. “Many scholars, however, identify him with Nathaniel…” John 1:45-51: “Philip found Nathanael and told him, ‘We have found the one Moses wrote about… And so our August 24 “St. Bart” is generally identified as the famous Nathanael who Jesus saw – in the first chapter of the John’s Gospel – sitting under the fig tree. [Or] see Bartholomew the Apostle – Wikipedia. It noted a number of traditions … including that he went on missionary journeys to India, or in the alternative to “EthiopiaMesopotamiaParthia, and and Lycaonia.”

Re: 425. From 1572 to 1997, the Massacre to the Pope’s apology.

The lower image is courtesy of Mass Shootings 2023 Image – Image Results.

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As to the cause of such “massacres,” see Why number of US mass shootings has risen sharply – BBC News. Among the reasons: 1) Americans have more guns now than they did before. 2) “People are afraid, and they want to quell that fear by buying a gun.” 3) A rise in life stressors, both in general and as a result of the pandemic, especially hardships related to finances, employment or family and relationships. (“93% of assailants had dealt with a personal issue prior to their attack, whether it be divorce, health problems, or issues at school or work.”) 4) “Toxic masculinity” – nearly all mass shooters (around 98%) are male.” And 5) Easy access to firearms.

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“Love one another” – get Transfigured (too)…

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Trying to love all people – as a “Crossfire Christian” – can feel like entering No man’s land

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I started off wanting to make this just another post on the Transfiguration of Jesus. (The Feast – the Celebration – that happened last Sunday, August 6, 2023.) And to explain again how it came to be called The Greatest Miracle in the World. But I also wanted to talk about a new name for Christians like me. (The real ones.) A post I would call “On Crossfire Christians.”

The way I see it, that name can help in those situations – so common these days – where someone demands, “What are your politics?” Are you a Conservative or – heaven forbid – a Liberal? Here’s a good new answer that just occurred to me: “Who Me? I’m just trying to stay out of the crossfire. So I’m a Crossfire Christian.* You know, like Jesus?”

Which is another way of saying Jesus didn’t get involved in politics. (Not like so many so-called Christians today.) He was more about saving souls. (And you know what they did to him for that.) Along that line I’m also trying to come up with a short snappy comeback. Say you’re at a bar, or trolling on Facebook, and someone says something really stupid. Something really off the wall. The question becomes, “How do I keep from saying, ‘What are you, an idiot?‘”

First off, that response wouldn’t be Christian. Besides, I’m trying to get the real message of Jesus out, to the people who need it most. (Like those who put their politics above their Faith. And that has crippled recruiting.*) The problem is, “How do you deal with that in a short, snappy comeback?” You need that today because way too many people have their minds set in stone. So, to have any chance at spreading the Good News you need to get your point across quickly. Or in ruder terms, “How do I dumb it down enough to get my point across quicker?”

I finally found an answer in last Sunday’s Transfiguration sermon. (August 6.)

In that sermon our Supply Priest – Father Tom – managed to sum up the entire message of the Bible in three simple words. “Love one another.” Of course I’d read of Jesus saying that before, in John 13:34. But for some reason the way Father Tom made that point – at just the time when I needed such clarification the most – finally brought things into focus.

Again, you summarize Jesus’ whole point in three simple words: “Love one another.”

The full passage – in the NIV – has Jesus say, “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” For me, last Sunday, that was exactly the right answer to what I’ve been looking for. The solution to, “How do I deal with so much hate and hostility these days?”

You can argue that other Bible passages are more important – and I have. Like Romans 10:9 and John 6:37. But in this day and age of such polarization, you can’t do much better, or simpler, than respond, “Love one another.” For maximum impact in the shortest possible time, just respond, “Love one another.” (And if you’re feeling especially smarmy you might add, “Some guy named Jesus said that. Maybe you’ve heard of him?”)

Politically it’s a simple effective litmus test. It also works for Facebook posts on a controversial new song. (Like “Try That in a Small Town.”) Just ask, “Does he or she preach (or stand for) ‘loving one another?” Which brings up another passage on point, John 6:60. That’s where so many disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” Which explains why too many of today’s so-called Christians don’t seem to follow the call to “love one another.”

Of course there’s also Mark 12:31, where Jesus said, of the Second Great Commandment, “Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no greater commandment.*” But too many people, their minds already made up, can nitpick that one. “That guy isn’t my neighbor. He lives too far away.” Or, “He’s not my neighbor. He’s from Mexico.” (Or some other “foreign place.”) But with “love one another” there is no such problem. Those three little words are simple, clear and precise.

Which brings up The Transfiguration. Simply put, to be transfigured is to be “transformed.” And if you start responding to such polarization with “love one another,” you too can be transformed – transfigured – like Jesus. Not that it will be easy, but then it wasn’t easy for Jesus either.

In 2015 I posted Transfiguration – The Greatest Miracle in the World. “Unlike the other miracles of Jesus, this one happened to Him. All the others involved Jesus doing things for other people.” That’s why St. Thomas Aquinas considered it the “the greatest miracle.”  (E.A.)

The post also noted that seeing the Transfiguration “transformed” the three disciples, Peter, James and John. They never forgot what happened that day, which was probably what Jesus intended. John wrote in his gospel, “We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only.” (John 1:14)  Peter also wrote of the event, “We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with Him on the sacred mountain.” (2 Peter 1:16-18.) Thus:

The disciples, who had only known Him in His human body, now had a greater realization of the deity of Christ… That gave them the reassurance they needed after hearing the shocking news of His coming death… But God’s voice from heaven – “Listen to Him!” – clearly showed that the Law and the Prophets must give way to Jesus.

In plain words, seeing Jesus transfigured “transformed” Peter, James and John. They went from cowards hiding in an upper room after Jesus “died” into witnesses who transformed the Known World. They transformed personally, then went on to Change the World. Of course you may not be able to do all that, but by reciting the simple “love one another” you can start transforming yourself. And maybe even lower the temperature on today’s boiling-over politico-polarization.

Heck, you might even metamorph from a metaphoric caterpillar to a butterfly…

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The upper image is courtesy of No Man’s Land Image – Image Results. See also No man’s land – Wikipedia, referring to a waste or unowned land or an uninhabited or desolate area “that may be under dispute between parties who leave it unoccupied out of fear or uncertainty.” Today the term is “commonly associated with World War I to describe the area of land between two enemy trench systems, not controlled by either side.”

The Book of Common Prayer reference. The “corporate-mystical” prayer is on page 339, the post-communion prayer for Holy Eucharist, Rite I.

Re: “Crossfire Christian.” Years ago I tried names like “Contrarian” and “Independent.” So for this post I borrowed from Epiphany ’23, the end of Christmas and “farewell Mi Dulce,” which referred back to ‘Mi Dulce’ – and Donald Trump – made me a Contrarian (or actually an Independent). Also, On Independence Day, 2016, and On Garry Wills and “What Jesus (REALLY) Meant.” (Which also addresses Jesus being above – not interested – in politics.) In 2022 I tried the term “Mystic Christian,” and published a book on that, On Mystic Christians: (You know, the REAL ones?) Before that I wrote the more confrontational No Such Thing as a Conservative Christian, in 2018, with the subtitle, and Other Such Musings on the Faith of the Bible.

On “crippled recruiting.” See articles like U.S. Church Membership Falls Below Majority for First Time, and Losing their religion: why US churches are on the decline.

Re: Jason Aldean song. The link is to Why is Jason Aldean’s ‘Try That in a Small Town’ so Controversial?” Subtitle: “The country star’s song has people divided over just what his message is.” Or Google “that small town jason aldean controversy.”

Re: Second Great Commandment. The first is to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”

On Nitpicking. According to Wikipedia, that’s “giving too much attention to unimportant detail.” From the “common act of manually removing nits (the eggs of lice” from another person’s hair:

As nitpicking inherently requires fastidious attention to detail, the term has become appropriated to describe the practice of meticulously searching for minor, even trivial errors… Nitpicking has been used to describe dishonest insurers and bullying employers, or even bullying family members.

On Change the World. The song first recorded by Wynona Judd, then Eric Clapton in 1996. It became a “perfect example of how music has the power to unite musicians of different genres, nations, and looks.” See Wikipedia for more.

Other posts on the subject include On the Transfiguration – 2020, which included the “metamorphosis” image, and noted the mountain setting of the Transfiguration presented “the point where human nature meets God: the meeting place for the temporal and the eternal, with Jesus himself as the connecting point.” See also On Saint James the Pilgrim – and “Transfiguration 2021.”

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