Category Archives: Religion

Who Is Vedran Smailovic?

Here’s a picture:

And what did this musician do, after being away from his Bosnian home for many years, only to return to find it almost completely destroyed?

He played his cello – in the ruins. Every day. Just to basically “flip the bird” to the forces of death and destruction and dehumanity. He said to the world, through his music, “Not. Dead. Yet.”

He also played funerals – even though funerals were often targets for attacks.

His story was the inspiration for this modern Christmas song by Trans-Siberian Orchestra, “Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12-24”

Paul O’Neill explained the story behind Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24 in an interview published on ChristianityToday’s website:

We heard about this cello player born in Sarajevo many years ago who left when he was fairly young to go on to become a well-respected musician, playing with various symphonies throughout Europe. Many decades later, he returned to Sarajevo as an elderly man—at the height of the Bosnian War, only to find his city in complete ruins.

I think what most broke this man’s heart was that the destruction was not done by some outside invader or natural disaster—it was done by his own people. At that time, Serbs were shelling Sarajevo every night. Rather than head for the bomb shelters like his family and neighbors, this man went to the town square, climbed onto a pile of rubble that had once been the fountain, took out his cello, and played Mozart and Beethoven as the city was bombed.

He came every night and began playing Christmas carols from that same spot. It was just such a powerful image—a white-haired man silhouetted against the cannon fire, playing timeless melodies to both sides of the conflict amid the rubble and devastation of the city he loves. Some time later, a reporter traced him down to ask why he did this insanely stupid thing. The old man said that it was his way of proving that despite all evidence to the contrary, the spirit of humanity was still alive in that place.

The song basically wrapped itself around him. We used some of the oldest Christmas melodies we could find, like “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” and “Carol of the Bells” (which is from Ukraine, near that region). The orchestra represents one side, the rock band the other, and single cello represents that single individual, that spark of hope.

Admittedly Vedran was only in his mid-30s at the time of the siege of Sarajevo, and he wasn’t white haired when he came back, so Paul was in error on that count

But the Cellist of Sarajevo was the inspiration behind a wildly popular modern Christmas tune.


Religion & Science

I just found this meme on Facebook:

Now, I like Dr. Tyson. He’s really cool. And I like the way he doesn’t put religious believers down just for being religious believers. All he’s asking is that you keep your religious beliefs out of the lab.

I wish more nonbelievers would take a leaf out of his book and treat believers with more respect and dignity, as he does.

But many nonbelievers seem to be completely unaware of how many religious people have long been part of the scientific world. I bet many nonbelievers would be completely shocked to know that the very father of astrophysics was a Jesuit priest, Angelo Secchi, S.J.

Or that the father of aeronautics was also a Jesuit priest, Fr. Francesco Lana-Terzi, S.J. I think many nonbelievers do not realize that for the last couple of centuries, Jesuits specifically have maintained a very prominent place in education and the sciences.

I think this may be because nonbelievers refuse to listen to anything OTHER than the popular mainstream media (which, in the US, has basically devolved to “infotainment”) which naturally is going to portray the most ridiculous of people (like the Westboro Baptist crazies, who seem to like protesting the funerals of our military dead as a way of telling the world that God is killing our soldiers because the US tolerates homosexuality) because that’s what gets headlines/lots of attention.


None of the nonbelievers think to question the sources they get their information about believers from. Yet they think they are the ones who are so awesome when it comes to “critical thinking.”

Not only that, but the nonbelievers who blast the believers also have a very limited HISTORICAL view. They don’t look at some of the small, frequently overlooked details of the historical record – and if they had done so, they would realize (for example) that the mathematical formula that became the “big bang theory” was developed by a Belgian Roman Catholic priest/professor/physicist, Fr. Georges LeMaitre. I do not know if Fr. LeMaitre was a Jesuit, but he was a priest.

Such nonsense.

Anyway, here is an article by Fr. Tom Lucas, himself a Jesuit, entitled “The Illustrious, Embattled Tradition of Jesuit Scientists.” Puts it so much better than I could.

On Veterans Day

I just left the following comment over on this post:

You’re damn right I’m going to honor our veterans; they are people like my husband, my grandfather AND grandmother, my two uncles, and many of my friends. They stepped up to the plate and made sacrifices that I and many others were either too chicken to do or simply not able to do.

I gave my US Army veteran husband a huge hug on Veterans Day and we had a nice talk about the fall of the Berlin Wall, the anniversary of which was on 9 November. Because my husband was in Germany (Bamberg – just 30 km outside the Czech border) just a few years before the Wall came down, he feels like he had something of a hand in bringing down those forces that had erected the Wall to begin with. We can’t say that nary a shot was fired during the Cold War, because plenty of our troops died (mostly Special Ops guys, that sort of thing), but it was a far calmer scene than WWII or Korea or Vietnam.

And let’s not forget that our troops are not just a bunch of “paid thugs” who are good for nothing more than shooting people. Many of the US Army Corps of Engineers are up in the American Northeast right now, among the many first responders who are trying to get things back to normal after Hurricane Sandy ripped through several states and left God only knows how many people without power, without running water, in flooded homes (IF their homes are still standing at all), etc.

Let’s also not forget things like Toys for Tots, a charitable event/foundation that the US Marines do every year near the holidays.

One thing I have noticed about UUs that I feel I need to speak out very strongly about is this mocking of our troops. That does nothing to help their morale, and they are standing between us and the barbarians at the gate, whatever form those barbarians may take.

So for your freedom to put them down and talk trash about them, my husband says, “You’re welcome.”

This nonsense really makes me hugely angry.

You want to know why veterans are heroes? Here’s why:

A veteran is someone who, at one point in his/her life, wrote a blank check made payable to “The United States of America,” for an amount of “up to and including my life.”

Not everyone can say that.

Guess what happens the US Marines who guard our embassies, when said embassies are attacked? THEY DIE. They die for civilian politicians. If anything, it’s the politicians (with their inclination to lie and bs the entire populace to win an election) who are NOT the heroes. It’s the people serving them.

Further comment: Joe and I tried to get a Veterans Day event going at First Unitarian. Only a very few people were interested in this, and since we left, I bet there has not been another Veterans Day observation whatsoever. And on Memorial Day weekend, which is the American weekend to remember those who FELL in warfare, protecting and defending our Constitutional rights, they have a chili cookoff. Is that really any way to remember those who were killed in action?

Maybe it’s better we’re not there any more. We’re not wanted. People like us, with our views, are not wanted. I keep thinking “oh no, they’re supposed to be open to people with all kinds of views, including us” but that’s just not the case, apparently.

I am so very tempted to go back to being pagan.

Dear Taliban – For Malala

Dear Taliban:

You have already lost, you know. You might as well just give it up.

I know that you people have sworn that if Malala lives, you will find her and “finish the job.” But you know what happens then?

Girls all over your nation will rise up and begin clamoring to go to school and have an education just like Malala. She will become their hero, their martyr. We Christians call many of these people “saints.” And perhaps you are not familiar with the statement made by Tertullian in the 2nd century: “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.” Yes indeed, and you see how huge and powerful the Christian faith has become over the last 2K years, don’t you? Oh yes. Martyrdom is VERY EFFECTIVE.

So you bear that in mind. Shed Malala’s blood and you will water a tree so mighty you will be completely overwhelmed by it. She will be more dangerous to you and your way of life if you kill her, than if you just left her alone to live and go to school and be an example to other young girls who will follow in her footsteps.

It’s inevitable, Taliban. Give it up now. You have already lost, and that is why you strike out in such desperation.

Sucks to be you, doesn’t it?


Who is More Pro-Science?

OK, so I just viewed this video:

And I thought, “Well, apparently Dr. Tyson isn’t familiar with moments like this” and my mind went to this:

Or this:

Or this:

And yes, Sherri Shepherd is a Christian. Probably shades more evangelical than not.

Or various rabid Christians who say that homosexuality is a sin – that women’s bodies can shut pregnancy down in cases of rape – that birth control methods like the Pill or Depo-Provera cause abortions and therefore should be outlawed or in some way rendered unavailable for women – condoms don’t prevent AIDS – things like that. At least, this seems to be the way it goes here in the US, anyway. And most of the people who espouse these views are fundamentalist Christian Republicans. They even base policies on these views. And that’s what makes it so dangerous – they seem to want to take the country back to the 11th century or even earlier, and I can’t call that a “good idea” in the 21st century, in this connected/internet age.

Just had to put that out there…

Celtic Contemplative Eucharist

My head is absolutely spinning – that’s some great Communion wine!

“Jesus looked at him and loved him.” That line makes all the difference in the world. Fr. Rob zeroed in on that line for his homily. Somehow, I knew he would do that. Sitting in my car before the service, reading this passage in my little Bible, something told me this line was the hinge of the entire thing.

He loved him.

Everything falls into place from that. 😉

Just A Note

I am gradually removing, from my Facebook page, all connections I had to pagan organizations like the Asatru Folk Assembly, The Wild Hunt blog, The Troth, Covenant of the Goddess, WRCF, etc etc etc.

Why would I do this?

Because I just don’t think there’s any real need to “be pagan” and still be – inspired by some (but not all) ideas that come out of pagan spirituality.

I’m not a perfect Christian – not by a long shot. I’m not one to sit here and moralize about things and say to pagans “you’re going to burn in hell because you’re worshipping false Gods.” That’s not my way.

But I have found that Christian spirituality can address, and quite well, a lot of the things one finds in pagan spirituality. If one finds inspiration in the natural world, there’s plenty of room for that sort of thing in a Christian walk. Just look at St. Francis – he’s, like, totally the original tree-hugging hippie. Hah!

Ancestor veneration? All Saints Day.

Feminism? First of all, G-d isn’t male OR female; we humans just use that kind of language for G-d out of convenience. I have an excerpt from a book that I’ll have to share here, that goes into the Lord’s Prayer in its original Aramaic, and how it talks about the Divine Parent in a way that isn’t gendered. Second, Christians believe that Yeshuah gave his life for *all* people. Not just men. That is the crucial point. “There is no Jew or Greek, no slave or free, no male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus,” St. Paul wrote in his letter to the Galatians. That means, quite simply, that in G-d’s eyes, it’s not about ethnicity or economic class or gender – it’s about one’s identity as a member of the mystical body of Christ. So therefore people of all ethnicities, all classes and all genders become one family. It is a big tent. This way isn’t based in ethnicity or gender or class. It transcends those things. Those earthly categories can shift and change anyway as time passes. This is kind of a Buddhist insight, but they pass. All Things Must Pass. Look to what doesn’t pass away – G-d.

Oooh, easy, I’m gettin’ preachy. Gotta stop that.

Have Christian people, in the past, done some awful things in the name of Christ? Yes, they have. But as St. Paul put it: “We hold a treasure in earthen vessels, that the exceeding power may be seen to be that of G-d and not ourselves.” What he’s saying there is that it just goes to show how limited and fallible human nature is, and it emphasizes how perfect G-d’s nature is. People are going to do completely stupid shit at times. That’s just being human. The fallibility of the human person does not impugn the core message, however – that G-d loves us madly, more than we can ever comprehend.

And as I have read Diana Butler Bass’s book “A People’s History of Christianity” I have come to see that in the Christian world, things have changed over the last 2K years – and yes, a lot of the change has been for the better. Things have improved. Things aren’t 100% perfect now, and they may never be, but there is that movement towards holiness/wholeness.

So, I just don’t really see the need to maintain contact with those pagan organizations any more. I see no point.