April 27th ~ A former Nazi?, Chinese Student Protests, and Nelson Mandela

Welcome to This Day in Today,

My name is Tom Keefe, and I’m the Babbling Professor!

~April 27~

On this day, April 27, 1987, the Reagan Administration declared Austrian President Kurt Waldheim persona non-grata and barred his entry to the United States. The US Justice Department alleged Waldheim had aided in the deportation and execution of thousands of Jews and others in his capacity as a German Army officer during World War II.

Ironically, he had already served post-WWII as the 4th Secretary-General of the United Nations and dealt with numerous international humanitarian crises.  In his 1985 autobiography, he lied about his service in the Germany army.  As a result, of his leadership of the UN and his minimalization and lies of his German service, Waldheim was elected President of Austria in 1986. He was barred from the US in 1987, and he did not seek re-election in 1992.

Two days after Waldheim death in 2007, the Austrian press published a post-humous apology written by Waldheim for his “mistakes.” A later independent investigation found no evidence of any personal involvement by Waldheim in war crimes. Although the committee cited evidence that Waldheim must have known about war crimes occurring.


On this day, April 27, 1989, the April 27th Demonstrations occurred throughout the major cities in China. The demonstrations were massive student marches coinciding with the infamous Tiananmen Square Protests of 1989. The students were protesting in response to the April 26 Editorial published by the People’s Daily. The editorial asserted that the student movement was anti-party and contributed to a sense of chaos and destabilization. The content of the editorial incited the largest student protest of the movement thus far in Beijing: between 50–200,000 students marched through the streets of Beijing before finally breaking through police lines into Tiananmen Square.


On this day, April 27, 1994, the 1994 Elections occurred in South Africa. The elections were the first in which citizens of all races were allowed to vote under the principle of universal adult suffrage. The election was conducted under the direction of the Independent Electoral Commission and marked the culmination of the four-year process that ended apartheid. Millions and millions of black South Africans waited in lines over a three-day voting period. Altogether 19,726,579 votes were counted. As widely expected, the African National Congress (ANC), whose slate incorporated the labor confederation and the South African Communist Party, together the slate won a sweeping victory, taking 62 percent of the vote, just short of the two-thirds majority required to unilaterally amend the Interim Constitution. As required by that document, the ANC formed a Government of National Unity, the two other parties that had won more than 20 seats in the National Assembly, the Inkatha Freedom Party as well as white Afrikaner National Party. The new National Assembly’s first act was to elect Nelson Mandela as President.

The date, April 27th is now a public holiday in South Africa, Freedom Day.

The next year, with international sanctions now lifted, The Rugby World Cup became the first major sporting event to take place in South Africa following the end of apartheid. It was also the first World Cup in which South Africa was allowed to compete; And the South African Springbok team, under the leadership of team captain Francois Pienaar won… they won it all. During the remarkable post-match presentation ceremony Nelson Mandela, wearing a Springbok jersey bearing Francois Pienaar’s number, presented him with the Webb Ellis Cup. During his acceptance speech, Pienaar made it clear that the team had won the trophy not just for the 60,000 fans at Ellis Park, but also for all 43,000,000 South Africans.


That’s all for today’s segment of This Day in Today, and remember,

Today’s Tomorrow’s yesterday.

Thank you for listening!

This Day in Today ~ April 26th

Welcome to This Day in Today,

My name is Tom Keefe, and I’m the Babbling Professor!


“April 26th”

On this day, April 26, 1718, Commodore Esek Hopkins was born in Scituate, Rhode Island. Hopkins was the only Commander in Chief of the Continental Navy during the American Revolutionary War. He was also an accomplished merchant captain and privateer. The founder and first leader of the U.S. Navy


On this day, April 26, 1933, the Gestapo, the official secret police force of Nazi Germany, was established. Rudolf Diel was the first Commander of the Gestapo; 1933–1934.


Four years later, on April 26, 1937, Guernica (or Gernika in Basque) was bombed by German Luftwaffe during the Spanish Civil War. No strategic value, no military targets. Wanton violence for the sake of violence. The German military-industrial complex playing with its new shiny toys and showing what the weapons of Mars and Aries can do.

Since that horror, the town has become a symbol of peace for the world. René Iché made a violent sculpture, also known as Guernica, the very day after the horrific bombing. And, perhaps more famously, Pablo Picasso painted his version of Guernica to commemorate the horrors of the bombing. Years later, for the 50th anniversary of the bombing, Gernika hosted the Preliminary Congress of the World Association of Martyr Cities. In 1988, Basque sculptor Eduardo Chillida unveiled his remembrance of Guernica and, in 1990, Large Figure in a Shelter, by Henry Moore was erected besideChillida’s work. Remembering the unforgettable through art.


That’s all for today’s segment of This Day in Today, and remember,

Today’s Tomorrow’s yesterday.

April 26th, Red for Ed, and Political Postering

Welcome to This Day in Today,
My name is Tom Keefe, and I’m the Babbling Professor!


Here we are, JeffCo day at the Capitol in Denver, Colorado. Red for Ed is the mantra of the teachers, jail those teachers is the battle cry of Senator Bob Gardner and Representative Paul Lundeen, both from El Paso County. The two have sponsored Senate Bill 18-264. The bill prohibits school districts from paying teachers by stating, and I quote, “Public school employers are prohibited from consenting to or condoning a strike and from paying a public school teacher for any day during which the public school teacher participates in a strike.” Really? Because JeffCo teachers are using their earned vacation days for today’s trips to the Capital. Where are the defenders of the First Amendment’s rights to grievance and assembly, and the freedom of speech? If a teacher is using earned vacation time to do, well, anything, how is that a strike? How is that the business of the illustrious legislative representatives of El Paso County?

But at least Senator Bob Gardner and Representative Paul Lundeen are obvious about where they stand. Look at former state senator Mike Johnston, running for the Democratic nomination for governor. Today he says he stands with teachers, but it was as a former school principal and state representative that he pushed through the unfunded mandate of SB 10-191. And then there is the Superintendent of Jefferson County, Jason Glass. After being backed into a corner by the usage of vacation and sick requests, Jeffco canceled classes on Thursday, April 26th, but then reiterated that it is a work day for anyone using vacation and legitimate sick time. Ok, that’s probably fair. But then the superintendent post on social media about how serious the education issues are in Colorado and listed a vanilla list of bullet points:

• Colorado currently ranks 42nd in the nation in per pupil funding.
• In Colorado, we fund our students at an average of $2,500 per student less than the national average – not the upper end of the scale – average.
• Only two states, Oklahoma and Arizona, spend less than Colorado on services for students with special needs.
• Despite constitutional protections designed to protect public school funding in Colorado, public schools have been underfunded by billions of dollars since 2008.
• Colorado ranked 50th of all states and the District of Columbia in how teacher pay compares to that of other college-educated workers.
• 95 percent of teacher salaries are below the standard of living in rural Colorado.
• Colorado is experiencing a significant teacher shortage. This is compounded in that close to 20% of teachers leave the profession within the first five years, citing low pay and low public regard as two leading reasons for leaving the profession.
• It is estimated that there is close to $18 billion dollars in school construction needs across the state.

Guess what? Many of those issues are issues which he, as the Superintendent and working with the School Board, controls. And guess what? That’s not what the teacher action today is about.

Thursday, April 26, is a “day of action” to talk to lawmakers about support of state pensions in the PERA program which replaces social security for CO teachers. Let me say that again, CO teachers do not receive Social Security, and now the state wants to change teachers PERA retirement benefits. “We are asking people, if they can take a personal day, to go downtown and talk to legislators,” Scott Kwasny, spokesman for the Jeffco Education Association said recently. Yes, Colorado teachers are asking lawmakers to devote some of the state budget surpluses to education, the primary issue of the day is PERA. And yet, Dr. Glass made a warm and fuzzy pro-education statement about other issues. Hostility from the rights, co-opting political maneuvering from the supposed left. How about we just fix the problem. How about we just pay our teachers, and ensure promises to their retirement at the time of enrollment are honored? Do we change the rules of a baseball game in the 5th Inning? Let’s be fair.


That’s all for today’s segment of This Day in Today, and remember,
Today’s Tomorrow’s yesterday.

Thank you for listening!


April 25th ~ RI’s Benedict Arnold and more!

Welcome to This Day in Today,

My name is Tom Keefe, and I’m the Babbling Professor!

~April 25~

“Metcalf Bowler: Patriot or Traitor?”

On this day, April 25, 1775, the Speaker of the Rhode Island House, Metcalf Bowler, sent a letter to the Massachusetts Provincial Congress that Rhode Island supported its northern neighbor:

Our intelligence to the Governour and Company of this Colony, by Edward Rawson, Esquire, was received by the Assembly, who were sitting in Providence to consult and act upon the present distresses into which your Colony and all of New-England are involved. You will see by the enclosed papers what we have done. Not-withstanding an exception of a very few individuals, you may be assured that the Colony are firm and determined, and that a greater unanimity scarce ever prevailed in the Lower House than was found in the great questions before them. We pray God that he would be graciously pleased to bring to nothing the counsels and designs of wicked men against our lives and liberties, and grant his blessing upon our righteous contest. I am, in behalf of the General Assembly, your and your Colony’ s sincere friend and humble servant,

Metcalf Bowler, Speaker

Bowler, born in London, England, was a wealthy merchant in Newport, Rhode Island. He was also a horticulturist who maintained the most beautiful garden in Portsmouth, Rhode Island and is remembered for cultivating the popular Rhode Island Greening Apple. Metcalf Bowler was the Speaker of the House of Representatives in Rhode Island from 1767-1776. After his estate in Portsmouth was ruined during the British occupation in December 1776, Bowler fled to Providence. In the late 1920s, research into the papers of Sir Henry Clinton found letters revealing that Bowler was a paid informant trying to protect his Portsmouth estate. One of Rhode Island’s heroes, and creator of the Rhode Island State Fruit, was a traitor.

Metcalf Bowler: Rhode Island’s Benedict Arnold?


175 years later  On this day, April 25, 1945, in the aftermath of WWII, fifty nations gathered in San Francisco, California and began the United Nations Conference on International Organization.


Speaking of WWI  On this day, April 25, 1992, George Mantello died in Rome, Italy. Mantello (December 11, 1901 – April 25, 1992) was a Jewish diplomat who, while working at the Salvadoran consulate in Geneva, Switzerland from 1942 to 1945, saved thousands of Jews from the Holocaust by providing them with fictitious Salvadoran citizenship papers. He was also instrumental in publicizing in mid-1944 the deportation of Hungarian Jews to the Auschwitz concentration camp.


More recently, on this day, April 25, 1979, Manal Masoud Almonemi al-Sharif was born in Saudi Arabia. Al-Sharif is a women’s rights activist from Saudi Arabia who helped start a women’s right to drive campaign in 2011. The women’s rights activist filmed herself driving and posted the video on YouTube and Facebook. Al-Sharif was detained and released on May 21st, then rearrested the following day. Al-Sharif was released on bail, on the conditions of returning for questioning if requested, not driving and not talking to the media. However, the video marked the beginning of what is now known as the “Women2Drive” campaign for women’s rights in the very conservative Arab kingdom.



That’s all for today’s segment of This Day in Today, and remember,

Today’s Tomorrow’s yesterday.

Thank you for listening!

April 24th ~ Ireland and Armenia

Welcome to This Day in Today, a collection of thoughts from my series of books, This Day in… There are currently five books in the series, This Day in Genocide, This Day in Peace, This Day in Trump, This Day in Black and Blue, and This Day in Rhode Island history.

My name is Tom Keefe, and I’m the Babbling Professor!


On this day, April 24, 1916, the Easter Rising, began in Dublin, Ireland. Members of the Irish Volunteers — led by schoolmaster and Irish language activist Patrick Pearse, joined by the smaller Irish Citizen Army of James Connolly seized key locations in Dublin and proclaimed the Irish Republic to be independent of the United Kingdom. More than 3,430 men and 79 women were arrested, although most were subsequently released.  In a series of courts martial, 90 people were sentenced to death.  Those fifteen included all seven signatories of the Proclamation of 1916 and were executed by firing squad (among them the seriously wounded James Connolly who was shot, while tied to a chair due to his shattered ankle). Irish nationalism, crushed by an Imperial Military, concurrently fighting in WWI…on the other side of Europe, Turkish forces in the Ottoman Empire crushed more than nascent nationalism.


April 24th is the 102th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. It’s as simple as that. One word: genocide. Once again, the President of the United States will not refer to the mass killings of Armenians as genocide. At least President Trump never promised to call it a genocide. Obama was the third presidential candidate to campaign on the promise to recognize the Armenian Genocide, and then fail to live up to that promise once elected. Why have President Clinton, President Bush and President Obama switched opinions? The argument is well-known: pandering candidates with limited foreign policy experience promise big, then the complexity of the situation causes policy reversal. Turkey is a strategic NATO ally; the White House needs the positive public relations image that comes with having good relations with Turkey since it is a Muslim democracy; Turkey is an ally in the war against ISIS, etc., etc., etc.

That is one truth, but there are also other truths. The truth is, that while Turkey was a strategic ally for the Cold War, so the US could monitor the Soviet Black Sea Fleet, such monitoring is no longer necessary by sea. While relations between the US and Russia are not warm and fuzzy, Russia does not have the economic, political, or social resources to threaten the United States as it did during the Cold War. Additionally, Iraq, Pakistan, Indonesia, and even Iran; all are Muslim countries trying to reconcile Islam and democracy. Though the others may not be perfect, Turkey is far from the only Muslim democracy. And let’s face it, Erdoğan is no true defender of democracy.  Nor is Turkey the most supportive ally against ISIS. Turkey had to be cajoled and cajoled to even allow Kurdish forces through Turkey who have sought to engage ISIS forces in Syria. So, to recap: Turkey’s control of the Dardanelles and Bosporus Straits is no longer a key US interest, Turkey is no longer a unique example of Muslim experiments in democracy, and Turkey has not actively supported joint operations against ISIS.

At the same time, the United States of America has the third largest Armenian population in the world (only Armenia and Russia have a higher Armenian population). The US Presidents have a responsibility to represent survivors and descendants of the Armenian Diaspora.  Ironically, US Presidents had no problem referring to the Armenian genocide when Turkey’s government was a military dictatorship. The amnesia of the recent White House administrations is a new phenomenon and it must end. The fact is the genocide happened. Period. That’s it.

The United Nations defines genocide as “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: (a) Killing members of the group; (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”

Even the Turkish government admits that Armenians were massacred and that wholesale emigration of the Armenian survivors occurred. Turkey resists the term genocide because it states the massacres were not systematic or premeditated. Even ignoring the evidence to the contrary, if one were to accept the Turkish statement of facts, it still meets the threshold of the UNCPPCG. There was an Armenian Genocide. Every Armenian family knows it. About 30 countries, including Germany and Austria, have recognized the genocide. While the Vatican has already recognized the Armenian Genocide, Pope Francis has raised the profile of the recognition by publicly and unequivocally referring to the massacre as genocide. The Jewish-American Anti-Defamation League and the Central Council of Jews in Germany have called the 1915 events a genocide. As the European Parliament unanimously passed another resolution recognizing the Armenian Genocide recently, German delegate Elmar Brok said, “My own people committed genocides,” he said. “and we know hundreds of thousands of Armenians died at the hands of the Ottoman Empire’s henchmen.” It’s called catharsis; just say the word. The word is genocide.

The Catholic Church has recognized its own responsibility for the Inquisition and the Crusades, including the sacking of Turkey’s own city of Istanbul (then Constantinople) in 1204. Germany, Cambodia, Rwanda, and Serbia have all recognized, to some extent, their role in the other 20th century genocides. In 1997, US President Bill Clinton apologized for the US role in the institutional enslavement of West Africans and African-Americans. Obama signed the apology to Native Americans in 2010. It is time for Turkish President Recep Erdoğan to follow this example and acknowledge his country’s past. Maybe President Trump can help Erdogan by using the word himself. The word is genocide, and, yes, it happened. Let’s not wait another hundred years to say so.


Now to share a little bit of good news:

While it was on this day, April 24, 1957, Maria Elizabeth Hesselblad that died in Rome, Italy, Hesselblad is now recognized as a Righteous Among the Nations.

Hesselblad was a Swedish nurse who had converted to Catholicism and founded a new form of life of the Bridgettines known as the Bridgettine Sisters. During World War II – and after – she performed many charitable works on behalf of the poor and those that suffered due to racial laws and promoted peace between Christians and non-Christians. The war also saw her save the lives of Jewish people who would have otherwise have perished in the Holocaust had it not been for her direct intervention.

Pope John Paul II beatified her on April 9, 2000, and Pope Francis formally approved her canonization in late 2015.


That’s all for today’s segment of This Day in Today, and remember,

Today’s Tomorrow’s yesterday.

Thank you for listening!

Soil, Sower, Seed

It was the summer of 1994 and, somewhere off the coast of Belize, I lay on the bottom of the Caribbean, resting my scuba tank on the ocean floor, gazing upward. I remember looking up to the surface and the refracting sunbeams reaching into the sea… and I remember thinking, wow, that’s a lot of water. Who knew, right? There’s a lot of water in the ocean?

Nearly twenty-three years later, somewhere in Alamosa, Colorado, I sat in a potato field… and, quite similarly… I was thinking: Wow, there’s a lot of potatoes in the earth. No, really. There were potatoes everywhere! We may sing about “amber waves of grain,” and Peter Piper may have picked a peck of pickled peppers but let me tell you! Those potato fields in Alamosa are filled with a lot of potatoes…. You could almost close your eyes, plunge your hand into the rich dirt, and pull out potatoes of every size and shape. And, like Ruth of the Old Testament, we were gleaners; picking food from the fields after harvest; So much food left in the good earth, and we were the second gleaners of the week!

How could ANYONE go hungry in the world, in the United States, in Colorado…? I had flashbacks to college classes on Soviet history, stories of bountiful farms of abundant food, rotting in the rich soil… and I thought, are we much different??

~ ~ ~

There’s a social media app called “Facebook”; if you know me, you know I’m rarely online and barely post anything, but that day I uploaded pictures of the potato fields and wrote that same question as a caption, “How can anyone be hungry in this world of abundance?” And, almost immediately, the answer came, not from Heaven, or Washington, DC, mind you, but the answer came nonetheless:

“It’s never been about the abundance of the food, but the distributive justice and economic factors that make it more appealing for food to rot in the fields than to feed the homeless and hungry.”

Apparently, our pastor, Curt Preston, was on Facebook too that beautiful autumn morning…

Such rich earth; such good soil. In fact, Colorado is part of what is economically known as the “Breadbasket of America”; Collectively, the United States, Canada, Zimbabwe, Ukraine, and Russia are known as the world’s breadbaskets; the good soil of just these five countries, producing food at peak capacity, could feed the whole, entire world. I kid you not. No more hunger; no food insecurity, no starvation; no famine. Such is the good soil of this Earth, this Garden of Eden…

And yet, we live in a starkly different reality, don’t we? We live in a world in which one out of every five residents of Alamosa County, Colorado, is below the poverty line; in 2010, the per capita income in Alamosa was just $18, 820 (and for comparison, Jefferson County, in the same report, had nearly double a per capita income of $34, 714).


We live in a world, similar to the time of Jesus, in which the powerful cluster together in their trappings, whether it be behind the walls of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, or the echo chambers of Washington and Wall Street… and the poor and the needy go without… without food security, without employment opportunities, and at times, without even hope.

Two thousand years ago, Jesus preached to the hopeless and the poor. His Good News is recorded for us in the Four Gospels… the more allegorical Gospel of John, and then three Synoptics which retell similar biographical accounts of Jesus’ ministry and his parables… Parables… Parables, as we know, are those little stories that Jesus used to make a deeper, often table-turning point to his followers. Parable comes from the Greek word, para-bol-ē (παραβολή) which, etymologically speaking, comes from “Bolla” meaning “I throw” and para meaning “beside” so a para-bol-e is something thrown side by side… and the word para-bol-ē can it can be translated from the Greek into English as a “comparison, an illustration, analogy…”

All told, the three Synoptic Gospels contain approximately 46 of these parabol-es, or parables; Yet out of all 46, only four appear in all Synoptics Gospels: The Parable of the Mustard Seed, the Parable of the Wicked Tenants, the Parable of the Faithful Servant… and… yes, today’s reading, the Parable of the Good Soil that we just heard so beautifully proclaimed…

The Good Soil, appears in Matthew 13: 1-23 and Luke 8:1-15, as well as Mark 4: 1-20… Matthew, written to the Jews; Mark written to the Greco-Roman people of the Empire; Luke, written to Gentiles who already converted to Christianity … three very different audiences and yet all share this parable with us? Why it this parable so important that it is retold in all three synoptic Gospels?

I mean:

Sure, Jesus, talking to a crowd? We’ve heard that before…

Jesus in a boat? Yup, we’ve heard that before too.

A farmer? Of course!! Jesus’ stories were being told to an audience of Jewish peasants, so, of course, he referenced tenant farmers, the farmer sowing seeds, and the day workers in the vineyards who today we might call migrant labor… We’ve heard about seeds too multiple times in Gospels: the Seed Growing Secretly, the Mustard Seed, etc., etc.

So, what’s the big deal? I mean, sure, I think I get it: We’re supposed to listen to the parable and determine what kind of soil we want to be, right? Or perhaps we’re called to consider what kind of soil our world has become?

Are we Number 1? Seed thrown along the path and eaten by birds: What a waste… like fertilizer on the driveway, washing into storm drains… watching sprinklers run all summer long at 2pm in the blazing sun, or worse, in the middle of a rainstorm… school lunchroom trash barrels, filled with food, and discarded fruits filled with seeds… wasted… never given a chance to grow… all that waste…

Or have we become the rocky soil and scorched by the sun? Do we have hard hearts? Has our earth become rocky soil? Soil Depletion, the Dust Bowl, climate change… temperature fluctuations, some places that were hot are getting cold, some places that were cold are getting hot, and some places that were hot are getter even hotter! In the news, we hear of each new ‘hottest day on record’, hottest month on record, the hottest year on record… longer summers at the South Pole, and melting Arctic ice and drowning polar bears in the north… Our planet is being scorched by the sun and is becoming rocky soil like the hardness of our hearts…

And then there’s #3: The seeds that grew among the thorns: Weedy soil. Weedy soil, filled with thorns… thorns that could be any of those things choking out the Good News from our lives: gossip, social media, political vit-riol, substance abuse, greed… Or more literally, look at the invasive species taking over native plants and animals… the ash borer beetle brought here from Asia and now destroying Colorado’s beautiful mountain forests… The round goby and Asian carp fish affecting the ecology of the Great Lakes, and -my personal favorite- invasive species… Mosquitos; No, mosquitos are not native to North America, but brought to this continent on slave ships from Africa, perhaps aboard that very first slave ship, the White Lion, that sailed up the James River in 1619… what an ironic, ironic, reminder of our country’s Original Sin…

And then there’s #4. Finally. The Good Soil. Well, hey, that’s it, right? Easy-peasy. We’re supposed to the Good Soil, like the God’s bountiful Garden of Eden in the Book of Genesis. And the Seed is the Good News being planted in our Good Soil. Done.

But wait…

As Billy Mays used to say, “But, wait! There’s more!!” Or at least, there might be, right? What if we’re not just the good soil? What if there’s more to the parabole? As Curt and Mollie suggested during Lent, what if this parable is an invitation to turn the tables? Yes, we have the human capacity to be like all four of the soils in the parable, but aren’t we also the Farmer, the Sower?


Having been exposed to many different Christian theologies, I can tell you there are those in the universal Christian community who believe this is a story of exclusion, a story of protecting yourself, a story that cautions good women and men not to waste their time spreading the Good News to those rocky soils, those weedy soils, those carnivorous birds and heretics. After all, the Gospel writer Mark also quotes Jesus as saying, “The poor you will always have with you.” There ya go: Save your time. Stick to the Good Soil.

Yet, many other Christians have a different take on spreading the Good News. The volunteers of La Puente, for example, spread the Good News to all people, regardless of whether others would consider them to be Good Soil or not. The LaPuente volunteers are like the Biblical Farmers of the parable, and they also tend to the farmers, to the migrant workers of Alamosa County…

The famed writer John Steinbeck highlighted the struggle of farm labor in The Grapes of Wrath, but it was really the Caesar Chávez who put agricultural issues into the national spotlight… Chavez once said, “It’s ironic that those who till the soil, cultivate and harvest the fruits, vegetables, and other foods that fill your tables with abundance have nothing left for themselves.” Migrant labor and family-owned farms… falling prey to xenophobia, agribusiness and mechanization…

But, in Alamosa, the volunteers of LaPuente and their community partners gather in “the lost and forsaken”; together they live out the Biblical commands to leave food in the fields for the poor, the orphans, the immigrants; so that they might glean from the fields and find sustenance.

And here, at the Lakewood United Church of Christ, like LaPuente, we too are Farmers. We are a community blessed with a rich harvest of gifts, that we’ve reaped, and, in turn, we freely sow back into each other, into our community and into the world…

Week after week, month after month and year after year, I see the people of this congregation spreading Good News to those in need, sowing hope in the hearts of those who may have lost hope… I see Linda Robal sowing a greater empathy and understanding of mental illness… I see our faith formation teachers passing along the gift of faith… Because it is not enough to receive the bountiful Graces of God, we must multiple those graces, like loaves and fish, and give back to the world…to Deane Elementary School. Amen, I say to you, of course, we can be the Good Soil, but we can also be the Farmer, sowing the Good News in the Good Soil… and even, maybe, what others might not see as good soils….


But aren’t we also the Seeds? Are we not called to root ourselves in the Good News to grow in the Good Soil? Isn’t that the Gospel message, the Call to Action? To go forth, to GROW forth, and spread the Good News? To support the Neighbors in Need and the 5 for 5 Special Offerings, to run at Clement Park and support Second Wind project, and To March for Science?

After all, what good is it to be a Farmer or a Seed, if nothing ever grows? As the epistle writer James says, “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds?

Amen, I say to you, each of us is called to tackle the issues of the day, to build up the Kingdom of Heaven here on Earth, and though we may be overwhelmed by the decadent waste and the thorns of opulence, to throw ourselves upon the rocky path!

Our hymn says, “We are called to act with justice….” because, as the philosopher, Paul Tillich, stated, “Our having is not unrelated to others not having.”

Yes, Mark quotes Jesus as saying there will always be the poor, but here’s a fuller version of the quote, “The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want.” Jesus knows the poor will always be with us, because he knows the hardness of our hearts…

And so, we are called to soften our hearts…

To be present on the rocky soil, to be witness to the scorched Earth, to consumed by the fire of righteous anger that our Mother Earth, our home, is being burned by the flames of greed, of hoarding, and of a rejection of Stewardship…

We are called… to live among the thorns; to be in the world but not of the world. We are called… to stand up to invasive attitudes and invasive species, so that “all might have abundant life.”

In Genesis 1, Verse 26, “God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the Earth.” Is that an invitation to squander and consume, or an invitation of Stewardship to care for creation?
Just three chapters later, perhaps my favorite line in all the Torah, God asks Cain, “Where is Able?” And Cain famously retorts, how should I know, “Am I my Brother’s Keeper?

Friends, let suggest that, yes, there are two parts of the Bible, but maybe not Old and New Testament as we’re used to… Perhaps the two halves are, on the one hand, the invitation to Stewardship and then the rest of the Bible is the 2nd part…

Cain asks, “Am I my Brother’s Keeper?” And Dr. Michael Barram points out everything after Genesis 4:9 is the answer! And the answer is a resounding YES! YES, we are our Brother’s Keeper!

And, if you happen to need a little extra motivation, try Malachi 3, Verse 5: “Then I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, thus says the LORD.”

My sisters and brothers, it never ceases to amaze me that so much energy is spent on two lines in Leviticus that are allegedly about homosexuality, while some of us miss the entirety of the rest of almost 70 books in the Bible and the explicit demand to care for the orphan, the poor, the widow… and to be our Brother’s Keeper! To do unto the Earth and to each other as we would have the Earth and others do to us. That is not just the Golden Rule, that is the Green Rule!

Amen, we are called, as the Iroquois once did, to make decisions based not upon our own self-interest, or on the wants of our generation, but upon the best interest of the Seventh Generation… our children’s, children’s, children’s, children’s, children’s children… our progeny that we will never know… Caesar Chavez also said: “History will judge societies and governments not by how big they are or how well they serve the rich and the powerful, but by how effectively they respond to the needs of the poor and the helpless.” What world are we leaving behind for the Seventh Generation?

~ ~ ~

Para-bolē. I mentioned that Para-bolē can be translated as an illustration; Friends, let me suggest that the universal message illustrated by the Gospel parables is compassion. I think it is compassion that we are called to learn from the 46 parables… Compassion… meaning “co-passion” or “passion with another.” Amen, I say to you, we are called to act together with passion and justice for our Brothers and Sisters as well as with passion for Creation, and justice for our world.

We are called…

Whether it be spring planting or fall harvesting of the potato fields in Alamosa; today’s Earth Day celebrations or yearlong Stewardship; the parables of yesteryear, or the environmental news of today; the hungry peasants in the time of Jesus, or the hungry families in our midst… Let us remember that Jesus is the Good News and the Good Soil, sent by the God-Head, and we as a people of faith are rooted in the Creator, the Redeemer, and the Sanctifier. In turn- we are called to become Good Soil to enrich and nourish all our communities. But we are also the Farmer and the Seed!!

Thus we have a trin-itarian calling, to be Soil, Sower, and Seed, to be present in the world and care for creation, to spread the Good News and grow the Kingdom of Heaven, here, in the good soil of Lakewood and Alamosa, Colorado… yes, We
Continue reading Soil, Sower, Seed

The Turkish Coup of July 15, 2016

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PHOTO CREDIT: Mark Rutte, Prime Minister of Netherlands (2012)

A few thoughts about the July 15, 2016, attempted coup d’état in the Republic of Turkey. It matters. It matters for the E.U. and the migrant refugee crisis. It matters for the Syrian Civil War. It matters for N.A.T.O. and the treaty obligations that the United States and its allies have with Turkey. It matters in the on-going war against the Islamic State (ISIL, or ISIS). It matters for the future of the West’s relationship with the Muslim world. It matters in terms of free speech and freedom of the press. And it matters in terms of legitimacy and the possible establishment of further international legal precedent. It matters in terms of how the coup may have impacted the genocide of Yazidis and Christians in the region as well as how the history of the Armenian Genocide is taught in Turkey. Finally, the coup may also affect the ongoing conflict between the Turks and Kurds. It matters.

Turkey, straddling two continents on each side of the Bosporus, also straddles the Western world and the Muslim world. The secular Turkish republic has been an example that Islam and the West can co-exist and, after Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s election in 2002, Turkey has also held the promise that democracy and Islam can co-exist as well. Note the past tense in those two previous statements. Previous Turkish governments have been comprised of secular Muslim leadership and intervening military juntas. In contrast, Erdogan’s party espouses Islamic philosophies and his tenure as Prime Minister and later President of Turkey has been scrutinized for more than a decade. That initial promise of an Islamic democracy has been eroded over the years, but perhaps it is not his Islamic inclinations, but his autocratic nature that is to blame.

If the military coup of July 15, 2016, had closed one chapter of Turkish history and begun another, then the world no longer has to wonder if Erdogan would surrender power peacefully. [Verily, democracies are not measured by elections, but by the peaceful transfer of power between political rivals.] So, would the coup have saved Turkish democracy and/or made Erdogan into a tragic hero? We will never know. Erdogan was democratically elected. Isn’t that what the West has supposedly advocated? Democracy? Didn’t US President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair promise their actions in the region would promote democracy in the region? But elections have consequences. It is hard to proclaim the sanctity of democratic elections if the results of those elections are not respected by those same voices, à la Iran 1953, Guatemala 1954, Egypt 2013, and possibly now Turkey 2016.

The coup, to the degree, that its believed to have been a genuine attempt to overthrow the government, may have made a heavy-handed autocrat into a somewhat sympathetic figure. So, are coup d’états to be accepted or not? After all, the American Experiment began as a coup in 1776. No matter what you learned in Civics class, there is no line in the Magna Carta nor Coronation Act of 1688 that legitimizes the overthrow of the government, regardless of how well Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson’s mesmerizing prose is a logical conceit, not an established legal president. After all, Americans have criticized the Burmese military for years for ignoring the 2010 elections results that had favored Aung San Suu Kyi. It is hard to credibly argue to have it both ways. Thomas Howard, the Duke of Norfolk who knew first hand from the court of Henry VIII how fickle the whims of leaders could be, said famously to Thomas Cromwell, “a man cannot have his cake and eat his cake.”

Many have argued Erdogan is no longer qualified to serve as head of state. After all, the detractors insist, he lost his legitimacy when he began attacking journalists and academics, yet that self-justifying logic is a slippery slope. Politicians must be removed by the rule of law, to do otherwise undermines the very rule of law Erdogan’s enemies purports to defend. It is also quite selective to question the legitimacy of Erdogan when Duarte dines at the White House, journalists mysteriously die in Putin’s Russia, Trump calls the media enemies of the state, and Orbán wins another election.

The Turkish military has had a tradition of intervening to “protect the republic,” specifically in 1960, 1971, and 1980. Let us hope the military does so again. Do not let your dislike of Erdogan cloud your judgment. If it is acceptable for the Turkish military to remove democratically elected civilians from power, what other militaries, in what other countries may now think to do the same? The 2016 attempted coup d’état in the Republic of Turkey certainly matters. It matters to the war against Islamic terrorism and the civilian casualties of the Syrian civil war. Perhaps equally important is what the coup says about the future of democracy in the Muslim world. But what happens next is anyone’s guess.