Monday, August 29, 2011

The Bible's Warning to the Rich- And to All of Us

I read the Epistle passage from James this morning, and I was struck by how James characterizes the rich in general: "Do not the rich oppress you, and themselves drag you before the judgment-seats? 7 Do not they blaspheme the honourable name by the which ye are called?"- James 2.6b-7.

In Chapter 5 of this same Epistle, James warns the rich of their impending judgment;  and of course, our Lord warned that it is "It is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God." - Mark 10.25.

These are momentous times, and the rich are often the protagonists in the world wide economic drama that is unfolding. Banks get bail outs to cover the debts of the rich; meanwhile social services across the globe are being considered for the chopping block, as nations consider austerity measures to help mitigate debts.

The witness of the Bible is not content to extol the virtues of almsgiving and charity; it shines a burning light on issues of justice, and the rich, in the passage above, are identified as the oppressors.

This is not Karl Marx; this is Jesus Christ; this is St. James, Jesus' brother; this is the Holy Bible.

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World of Class Warfare - The Poor's Free Ride Is Over
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Recent clips of Fox News Commentators, shown on the Jon Stewart show, feature the talking heads condemning the poor and those using social services as "parasites," "animals," and the "moocher class." Similar language was used by Hitler to speak of the Jews. The folks at Fox News, and those who listen to them, need to hear the word of God: "Whoso mocketh the poor reproacheth his Maker: and he that is glad at calamity shall not be unpunished."- Proverbs 17.5, English Revised Version.

The Bible shows which side of the class struggle we should side with.

Jesus assures the rich, and all of us, that salvation is possible with God. But repentance must take place. The Bible calls on the rich, and all of us, to be generous with those in need, but also, to do justice, to work to change unjust structures, to relieve oppression.

Will we hear the word of God in this current world crisis?


But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

- Mark 10.24,25, English Revised Version

1 My brethren, hold not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. 2 For if there come into your synagogue a man with a gold ring, in fine clothing, and there come in also a poor man in vile clothing; 3 and ye have regard to him that weareth the fine clothing, and say, Sit thou here in a good place; and ye say to the poor man, Stand thou there, or sit under my footstool; 4 are ye not divided in your own mind, and become judges with evil thoughts? 5 Hearken, my beloved brethren; did not God choose them that are poor as to the world to be rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he promised to them that love him? 6 But ye have dishonoured the poor man. Do not the rich oppress you, and themselves drag you before the judgment-seats? 7 Do not they blaspheme the honourable name by the which ye are called?
8 Howbeit if ye fulfill the royal law, according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: 9 but if ye have respect of persons, ye commit sin, being convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is become guilty of all. 11 For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou dost not commit adultery, but killest, thou art become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak ye, and so do, as men that are to be judged by a law of liberty. 13 For judgment is without mercy to him that hath shewed no mercy: mercy glorieth against judgment.

- James 2.1-13, English Revised Version

Go to now, ye rich, weep and howl for your miseries that are coming upon you. 2 Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten. 3 Your gold and your silver are rusted; and their rust shall be for a testimony against you, and shall eat your flesh as fire. Ye have laid up your treasure in the last days. 4 Behold, the hire of the labourers who mowed your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth out: and the cries of them that reaped have entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. 5 Ye have lived delicately on the earth, and taken your pleasure; ye have nourished your hearts in a day of slaughter. 6 Ye have condemned, ye have killed the righteous one; he doth not resist you.

- James 5.1-6, English Revised Version

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Esperanza Spalding: Baby's Got Bass, in New York Times Magazine Women's Fashion

Our favorite Jazz star, Esperanza Spalding was featured August 18th, 20011, in the New York Times Magazine in Women's Fashion. Here is a link to the article:

Not only is the article and interview very interesting, but there are some very lovely modeling pictures of our Jazz star. Esperanza is on her way to becoming a big star. As my brother said recently, "Amazing woman.  Amazing talent, poise and beauty.  Simply amazing." That says it all.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

My Autographed Photo of Madonna

One of my prized possessions, an autographed glossy photo of Madonna.

My celebrity crush in 1998 was for Madonna, and she put out one of her best Albums, Ray of Light that year. It is still one of the most spiritually edifying albums I have ever heard, I am still deeply moved when I hear it.

Later, I will do a fuller blog post on Ray of Light, as part of a new series I will be doing on Classic Albums.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

40th Anniversary of The Concert of Bangladesh (August 1st, 1971)

On August 1st, 1971, George Harrison, along with several other luminaries from the Rock music world, performed two concerts, one in the afternoon, and one in the evening, for the people of Bangladesh. It was the first charity benefit concert of its kind, anticipating such events as Live Aid in the 1980's. George was joined by Ravi Shankar, Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, Bob Dylan, Leon Russell, Billy Preston, Apple group Badfinger, long time Beatle friend and bassist, Klaus Voorman from Hamburg, and several other musicians.

This month marks the 40th anniversary of this momentous event in music history. I remember seeing the original concert film back in the 70's, with my best friend, Eddie Ford, in a movie theater in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

George's friend and mentor Ravi Shankar approached him about performing some kind of benefit concert for the people of Bangladesh, who had suffered immensely in war and widespread famine- "my friend came to me/with sadness in eyes/he told me that he wanted help/before his country died (from the song, Bangladesh; see more lyrics below)."

George rallied a group of star musicians, many of them future inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

George also attempted to have Paul and Linda McCartney and John and Yoko Lennon appear, which would have constituted a Beatle re-union; but the McCartneys declined, and the Lennons backed out. Some have said George wanted John to appear, but not Yoko; and that is why the Lennons did not appear.

Ringo did show up and performed his top ten single (#4), It Don't Come Easy, which was written with the help of George.

Eric Clapton, struggling with heroin addiction, performed at the show. He was George's best friend, and had recently released his magnum opus, Layla and Assorted Love Songs, with its searing single, Layla- which was a passionate love song directed at George's wife, Patti Boyd. Eric did not perform any of his own music, but instead provided lead guitar work for the concert.

Bob Dylan showed up, and played a set of his songs. Whereas the other musicians besides George had only one song, Dylan performed six. George brought him out and introduced him in the middle of the show to huge applause.

Leon Russell performed a medley of the Rolling Stone's Jumping Jack Flash, and the 1950's hit, Young Blood.

Billy Preston enjoyed one of the highlights of the evening, with a rousing rendition of his song, That's the Way God Planned It, which added to the spiritual atmosphere already created in the concert by the religious nature of George's songs. I like that his gospel song was not a Jesus-and-me song, but emphasized loving your brother [and sister] as being the “way God planned it (see lyrics below).”

Indeed, re-watching the performances this morning in preparation for this blog was a spiritual experience for me, lifting my heart to the Lord. I had tears as I felt the Holy Ghost flood my heart watching these moving performances from 1971.

George himself was at the top of the pop music world at the time, having brought what is in my mind still the best solo Beatle album, All Things Must Pass. His album had been number one on the charts, as well as his spiritual single, My Sweet Lord. George for the moment was enjoying the most critical praise and successful solo career of any of the Beatles after their break up. His intense spirituality and devotion is expressed beautifully in My Sweet Lord and Beware of Darkness. While My Guitar Gently Weeps conveys pathos and is performed with much feeling. His Beatle hits, such as Something and Here Comes the Sun, lend credibility to the view of one music scholar who suggest George by 1969 was already a better songwriter than the Rolling Stones. Indeed, George Martin, the Beatle's producer, would later regret he did not give George more space on the Beatle records. George was often relegated to only one or two songs per album, living as he did in the shadow of the towering genius of Lennon and McCartney.

George's song, Bangladesh, is no doubt one of the best songs he has ever written. The lyrics and music are so intensely passionate. George acknowledges “although I could not feel the pain, I knew I had to try/and now I am asking all of you to help us save some lives..." What a beautiful expression of true empathy; of course, we cannot feel exactly what people suffering such horrid circumstances feel; but we can have compassion and do what we can.

The concert for Bangladesh was a wonderful event, which was an expression of spirituality and altruism on the part of the artists who performed there.

Billy Preston's song performed in the concert, That's the Way God Planned It, has lyrics that beautifully sum up the essence of the event:

How men be so greedy
When there's so much left
All things that God's given
And they all have been blessed...

Let not your heart be troubled
Let mourning sobbing cease
Learn to help one another
And live in perfect peace


Set List for the Concert of Bangladesh

Bangla Dhun - Ravi Shankar
Wah-Wah – George Harrison
My Sweet Lord - George Harrison
Awaiting on You All - George Harrison
That's the Way God Planned It – Billy Preston
It Don't Come Easy – Ringo Starr
Beware of Darkness - George Harrison & Leon Russell
While My Guitar Gently Weeps - George Harrison
Medley: Jumpin' Jack Flash/Young Blood – Leon Russell
Here Comes the Sun - George Harrison
A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall – Bob Dylan
It's Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry – Bob Dylan
Blowin' in the Wind – Bob Dylan
Mr. Tambourine Man - Bob Dylan
Just Like a Woman – Bob Dylan
Something - George Harrison
Bangla Desh - George Harrison

You can purchase the CD of the concert here; the DVD of the concert, here.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Paramahansa Yogananda: Forgiving & Loving.

Today, I forgive all those who have ever offended me. I give my love to all thirsty hearts, both to those who love me and to those who do not love me. - Paramahansa Yogananda.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Melissa Harris-Perry on Michele Bachmann and Michelle Obama’s faith in America: from

Why did the press and conservatives beat up on Michelle Obama when she said "for the first time...I am proud of my country", but not Michele Bachmann when she admitted she had "her pride in America RESTORED?" Melissa Harris-Perry comments on the video link below at Feministing. - Lance

Melissa Harris-Perry on Michele Bachmann and Michelle Obama’s faith in America

from the website: “You may have noticed we’re big Melissa Harris-Perry fans here at Feministing. The professor was on The Last Word yesterday to take on the media’s differential treatment of Michelle Obama and Michele Bachmann when they both made comments that the 2008 or 2012 campaign, respectively, gave them faith in the US. Specifically, Michelle Obama’s statement caused a big ol’ media storm, and Michele Bachmann’s caused… well, just Melissa Harris-Perry’s commentary.”

Monday, August 15, 2011

Stephen Colbert: Admit it- We Just Don't Want to Follow Jesus

“If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn’t help the poor, either we have to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we’ve got to acknowledge that He commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition and then admit that we just don’t want to do it.”

- Stephen Colbert

Sunday, August 14, 2011

George Harrison: The Inner Light

The two videos here represent George Harrison's most successful expression of Indian music and spirituality recorded with the Beatles.

Within You and Without You is the opening track of side 2 of the Beatle's breakthrough LP, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band; the video features a few bars from one of George's other Indian songs, Love You Too, from Revolver.

The Inner Light, with lyrics taken almost word for word from John C.H. Wu's translation of the Tao Teh Ching, was side B of the Lady Madonna single.

Both of these videos are beautiful made, with footage of life India, spliced with rare footage of the Fabs, some of which this lifelong Beatle fan has never seen before.

Sometime in the future, I plan to write a blog essay about George Harrion's spirituality. In spite of moments of stumbling, George maintained a lifelong commitment to his spirituality, and as his wife Olivia said at the time of his passing, "George left the world in the same way he lived in it, in the consciousness of God."

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The War on Poverty DID Help the Poor- Confronting the Lies.

‎"In 1960, 40 million Americans, 20 percent of the population, were classified as poor. By 1969, the number of poor had fallen to 24 million, 12 percent of the population...

Infant mortality among the poor fell by one-third in the decade after 1965 as a result of federal medical and nutrition programs. Before 1965, 20 percent of the poor had never seen a doctor; by 1970 the figure had been cut to 8 percent...

For African Americans during the 1960's median family income rose 53 percent; employment in technical, professional, and clerical occupations doubled; and average educational attainment increased by four years. The proportion of African Americans below the poverty line fell from 55 percent in 1960 to 27 percent in 1968...

(Source: "America and its Peoples". 5th Ed. Pearson Longman. 2007)
"And they say that social programs did NOTHING to help the poor. There are lies, and then there are DAMNED lies." - My friend Kyle, who brought this to my attention...

Friday, August 5, 2011


Happy Birthday, Mr. President! Our nation needs you to be strong leader in these momentous times. Today, we honor your birthday, and offer prayers for your protection, and for you to have wisdom and courage in leading this great nation.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Richard Rohr: What Did Jesus Really Teach

Excellent presentation by Richard Rohr. He asserts that the non-negotiable for Jesus in his teaching is non-violence, not stem cells or contraception. He also points out that most nations with Christian heritage have not been known for peace making but have often been war mongering. He praised the Quakers, Mennonites, and Anabaptists for preserving the tradition of Christian peace-making and non-violence. Rohr talks about how Jesus never excluded anyone in the gospels, but that churches and denominations are exclusionary institutions, especially when it comes to the Eucharist.

This is a call to consider what Jesus really taught, and follow his priorities, rather than the human traditions of most churches.