Archive for April, 2012

FEATURE STORY

Monday, April 30th, 2012 | Uncategorized | 26 Comments

 


Episcopal Church Makes Startling Gains

by Christopher S. Johnson

COUNTRY LIFE ACRES, Mo. – For several decades, mainline Protestant churches have been losing members at an alarming rate. Many attribute this decline to the perceived “liberalism” of those churches while others look to the general decline in specific Christian identification in the United States.

There is one exception to this trend.

In one of the most astonishing turnarounds in American religious history, the Episcopal Church, which a little over a year ago claimed under two million members, now claims a membership of slightly over 600 billion, according to a report from Kirk Hadaway, the church’s director of research.

How did this happen?  How did a church go from near-death to become the largest Christian church the world has ever seen?  How did the Episcopalians go from slightly under two million members to a membership 100 times the world’s entire population?

“When you get right down to it,” Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said recently, “it’s a fantastic illustration of Ben Franklin’s old adage about how, ‘A little child shall lead them.’”
____________________

Ron and Nadine Habermayer attend St. Brendan Faherty’s Episcopal Church in Country Life Acres, Missouri, just outside St. Louis.  Both are active in parish life.  Ron is currently St. Brendan’s Senior Warden while Nadine serves on the church’s vestry.

“Ron and I were eating dinner one night,” Mrs. Habermayer recalls.  “We were talking about outreach toward young people, programs we could do for kids, that kind of thing, when my four-year-old daughter Nora Sue suddenly blurted out that she wanted to take Casper to church with her.”

“That’s her imaginary friend, Casper Van Frehlingshuysen IV,” added Ron Habermayer.   “Nadine and I looked at each other and thought, yeah, that sounds pretty good.”

“So I brought it to the next vestry meeting,” said Nadine.  “Everybody loved it and Take Your Imaginary Friend To Church Day was officially launched.  It was a great success.”

“Many adults wanted to support and encourage the kids,” Ron remarked.  “I guess that’s what it was since I noticed that quite a few of the men brought copies of People magazine with pictures of Angelina  Jolie or Kim Kardashian on the cover.”

“All of which got me to thinking,” said St. Brendan Faherty’s rector the Rev. Gabrielle Fortunato.  “Has my church done all that it can do to minister to Fictional-Americans?

“In Paul’s letter to the Effusions, he mentions a ‘great cloud of witnesses”  You can’t see them, can you?  And since working as a Hooter’s waitress got me through seminary, I knew as well as anyone that Fictional-Americans were as real as I am. 

“After consulting my colleagues at many a clergy conference, I realized that Jesus love was all-inclusive and unconditional and that He wouldn’t have turned away anyone simply because that person lacked an identity, a body, an actual existence and stuff.”

The result of Rev. Fortunato’s musings, Resolution XR4Ti which Ron and Nadine Habermayer put forward at Missouri’s last diocesan convention, called for the implementation of three things.

(1) Diocecan-wide repentance for the sin of existentialism.
(2) An aggressive program of anti-existentialism training.
(3) Devoting diocesan resources for outreach to the non-existent.

And the result?  In about a year, membership in the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri went from approximately 14,000 to just over 4.5 billion.  “And it’s still climbing,” said Fortunato.

“Then our program went national,” St. Brendan’s rector recalled.  “Dioceses began implementing it all over the country and showed the same gains we did here or even better.

“Northern Michigan’s membership was down to, what, 25 or so?  They reported an increase of 3 billion.  New York went up to 18 billion last I checked.  And LA’s up to something like 144 octillion.”

The Diocese plans to submit a resolution to this summer’s General Convention to formalize and officially implement national Episcopal Church outreach to the Non-Existent-American community.  Church liberals welcome the move.

“It’s high time that my church reached out to the incorporeal,” said controversial former bishop John Shelby Spong.  “As far as I’m concerned, it’s positively shameful that we’ve limited our ministries to people with legal existences and I’m ecstatic that we’ve repented of that barbaric stance.”

George W. Hackenschmidt, the Episcopal Church’s conservative, isn’t so sure.  “What’s next?” the Rapid City, South Dakota actuary recently asked.  “Are we going to let some loser ‘marry’ his sexual fantasy?  Because if we are, I am so out of here.”

Blessing the relationship between real people and fictional ones is not on the radar screen, says Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, “because a liturgy has not yet been approved.”

St. Eoin Kelly's Episcopal Church, Rancho Cucamonga, California during worship last Sunday

That hasn’t stopped some churches from implementing the blessing of the relationships of real and fictional people.  Last month, Daniel “Steve” Blankenship of St. George Clooney’s Episcopal Church in Lakeshire, Missouri had his relationship with his fictional girlfriend Darla blessed at a packed ceremony at his church.

“It was incredibly moving for me and for Darla,” the 59-year-old meth addict recalled.  “It’s all kinds of encouraging to know that your church has your back.”

Other Episcopal churches have established satellite churches specifically for Theoretical-Americans in their communities.  All Saints of Pasadena, California recently planted a church in Rancho Cucamonga, California called St. Eoin Kelly’s.

“So far, it’s been a great success,” said All Saints’ Susan Russell.  “Packed every single Sunday.  Anybody who thinks the Episcopal Church has got one foot in the grave is invited out to St. Eoin Kelly’s next Sunday.  One foot in the grave my ass.”

DEAR PRESIDENT OBAMA

Monday, April 30th, 2012 | Uncategorized | 8 Comments

Stop using Twitter.  Now.

24

Sunday, April 29th, 2012 | Uncategorized | 3 Comments

A “Chris Johnson, Anglican Investigator” blast from the past

Part One / Part Two / Part Three

Part Four- The following takes place between 2:00 PM and 9:00 PM.

2:00 PM – I immediately pulled the Nissan over to the side of the road and stopped. The three of us looked at each other but couldn’t say a word. Then Greg and Dale began making phone calls while Dale logged on to the Internet.

“With the Pope and the bomb threat, the President’s basically gone to DEFCON 1, Chris,” Colleen continued. “This is priority number one for every law enforcement and intelligence service in this country and all over the world. Do you guys have any idea where the bomb and the hostages might be?”

“I’m certain that both are somewhere in this area,” I said. “We don’t know exactly where yet. Are you still in town? How many agents do you have on hand?”

“I’m still here. And I’ve got as many as I need.”

“Get more. Lots more.  Put Allen back in the field if you have to. Since we’re also fairly certain that the hostages are in the same place as the bomb, I don’t plan on playing hero. You guys are going to have to handle the actual raid.”

“I’ll pass this up the line and get to work organizing things. Call me as soon as you know.”

“Will do, kid. Stay cool.”

I hung up. “I just got off the phone with the Archdiocese here,” said Greg. “Nobody can find Archbishop Burke. They were circumspect but they sounded really worried. And nobody would connect me to Archbishop Egan in New York. They also sounded scared.”

“Nobody in Pittsburgh knows where Duncan, Iker, Stanton or any of the Network bishops are,” said Dale. “Billy Graham, Benedict Groeschel, Rod Parsley, and Mother Angelica are all missing. Cardinal Arinze and Archbishop Akinola are nowhere to be found. EPF and the Maryknollers are pushing all-in.”

I started the car back up and headed east. “We’ve got to get off the road as soon as possible,” I said.

3:00 PM – Up the road a bit, I noticed Pamela’s, the restaurant/bar owned by my friend, jazz superstar and actress Pamela Melton, so I pulled in the parking lot, parked as out of sight as I could, and we went inside.

Pamela didn’t get back to St. Louis much since, if she isn’t recording, touring or acting, she spends most of her time at one of her four estates here and there around the world. But she’s been known to pop into town and sing a set at her joint now and then. Bootlegs are available on eBay all the time.

Nobody was there. Price and Griffith ordered Cokes while I ordered a Manhattan. “A Manhattan?” wondered Dale.

I was dragging. “Why not? Lord knows, caffeine’s not working anymore.”

Even though there was no one there, we headed for a corner booth where we could see anyone who came in. Greg took out the laptop and turned it around so that we all could see it. “You can run this thing at different levels. Basically from 5,000 feet down to ground level.”

“Run a prediction up to 9:00 tonight,” said Price.

Griffith did so. “That dark blue spot is the strongest part of the Nexis,” he told us.

“Now isolate it for Missouri,” I said.

Greg ran it again. “We seem to be looking at a time frame of approximately 5:30 PM to 10:30 PM,” he said.

“Take it down as far as you can. Try to isolate it for St. Louis.”

Griffith ran the predictor again. “Were I to guess, I’d say roughly 7:30 to 9:00 PM. But as you can see, that still doesn’t tell us what we need to know.”

I sipped my drink. “Run the prediction again. All levels, highest to lowest.”

Greg entered the data and we watched the predictions. At ground level, the strongest part of the Nexis was almost black. “Did you guys notice something about the strongest part of the Nexis?” I asked.

“It keeps its shape. All the way down to the deck,” said Dale.

“Roughly circular,” said Griffith.

“Now run another St. Louis prediction and save the file,” I stared into my glass as I slowly turned it. “See if this makes sense. All the way down, we’re basically looking at a circle. Doesn’t that suggest that the very strongest part of the Nexis is in the exact center of that circle?”

“Yeah,” murmured Price. “It certainly does.” Greg nodded in agreement.

4:00 PM – “Hand me the laptop. I have to download something.” I logged on the Web and called up the National Weather Service. “A year ago, Nicky developed some software for the National Weather Service that should help us determine…”

“Quick observation,” interjected Greg. “For all practical purposes, your wife is Angelina Jolie only hotter by a factor of 18.4.”

“19.2,” said Dale.

“20.3 at last count, actually,” I observed.

“For the love of God, SHUT UP!!. So you’re telling me that the hottest woman in the entire world writes software for the National Weather Service and who knows who else? How is that possible?”

Nicky’s software finished downloading and I installed it. “Dunno. That’s just one of them weird things that happens. Actually, she hasn’t done too much of that kind of thing lately.”

“I understand,” said Greg. “What with having the baby and all.”

“Well, that and the open-source Web browser she’s developing to compete with Firefox. The kid does sleep now and then.” Griffith started to say something, looked at Price who shut his eyes, slowly shook his head and instantly began testing Nicky’s software.

“What does this stuff do anyway?” asked Dale.

“Nicky calls it positional analysis. It takes radar readings and tells you where any given point on the screen is. What city a storm’s passing over, landmarks in a storm’s path, things like that. Meteorologists, meteorology schools, meteorology students, storm chasers and weather freaks use it all the time.”

Griffith picked it up right away. “Are you sure the file will work with this?”

“There’s a map there so it should. It’ll scale everything. It’s designed to work with just about any graphic analysis file so go ahead and run the St. Louis thing. Select the strongest part of the Nexis, right click and select ’Center.’ It’ll tell you when it passes over a landmark.”

Greg started the software and stared at the screen. “Nothing so far. Just home addresses, near as I can tell. Wait a minute. We’ve got one. The Cathedral Basilica. 7:30 PM.”

Freeze it.” I looked at Greg and Dale. “Feasible?”

“No,” said Dale. “If they suddenly stopped having Masses, too many people would ask questions. Then there’s the question of space. And I can’t think somebody wouldn’t have seen something weird going on and reported it.

“They could keep the basement door locked,” said Greg. “Although I guess the maintenance people would have to be given time off or they could find out if anyone’s down there.”

“Just to be on the safe side, we’ll drive by and take a look at it. Resume the program.”

The program started again and the three of us watched the Nexis continue to move over the St. Louis area. Then we got another hit. The Edward Jones Dome. 8:45 PM. Then the circle moved off into Illinois.

I stopped the program. “I think it’s the Ed,” I told them.

“They’d need a lot of people,” Price suggested.

“Maybe not, as long as the doors stay locked,” Griffith said. “And there have to be plenty of places, delivery areas, players entrances, things like that, where hostages could have been brought in without anyone noticing.”

“Only one way to find out,” I said.

5:00 PM – We drove to downtown St. Louis, stopping at a Best Buy so I could buy some binoculars of my own and at a 7-11 for a few extra supplies. First stop was the Cathedral Basilica.

We circled it once. “No security,” I remarked. We watched an old lady climb the steps and enter. “And they don’t seem to be turning the public away.”

I parked the Nissan and the three of us went inside. No one attempted to stop us. We spent a few rapturous moments admiring the spectacular mosaics on the walls and ceiling of the Byzantine-inspired church before getting back to business.

As we wandered the halls, we didn’t see very many people. No one asked us who we were or why we were there. The door to the basement was open so we peered downstairs. No one was down there. Dale looked at me and said, “Let’s get going.”

We got back in the Nissan and headed north. Greg was on the Internet. “I found a particularly interesting news story on the Edward Jones Dome web site. Apparently, there’s going to be a major ’peace convention’ there tonight. The public’s not invited. And I don’t think I have to tell you who two of the co-sponsors are.”

So much for coffee, I thought. Adrenaline was kicking in.

When we got to the Dome, I circled it. All the main entrances had security guards in front of them as did what appeared to be the delivery areas. I noticed an unguarded door that looked promising so I parked the car a block away and said, “Let’s check the sight lines.”

We casually walked up the street and got as close to the Ed as we dared. The three of us looked carefully in both directions. “Acceptable?” I asked.

“Perfect,” said Dale.

“Far enough away from the security guards? I don’t want them investigating any funny sounds they hear.”

“It should be,” said Greg.

We went back to the Nissan and parked it in a parking lot. The three of us picked up our supplies and started walking back toward the Ed. I handed Greg and Dale spray bottles of my knockout agent. “Don’t want to have to shoot anybody if it’s at all possible.” I told them.

Crossing the street, we walked up to the door. Both Dale and Greg got out their guns and watched both directions while I took out a spray bottle of my knockout agent and began pounding on the door.

After not all that long, I could hear someone say, “Hold your damn horses.” A man unlocked the door and managed to say, “What’s this all about?” before I sprayed him in the face.

Dale and I caught him before he fell as Griffith ran past us. “Clear,” said Greg and continued to monitor things. Then we pulled our friend underneath some stairs.

I took out a half pint of Jack Daniels, went outside, poured out about a third on the grass, poured some on our friend’s shirt and placed the rest in his hand.

“Jack Daniels, Gracie?” Dale asked.

“If I’m going to get the guy fake drunk, I’m at least going to get him fake drunk on something reasonably good,” I replied. “Is that the key still in the door?”

Price walked over, tested the key, took it off the man’s keychain, put it on his own and tossed me the rest of the man’s keys which I stuck back in his pocket.

6:00 PM – Greg looked at us, made a slashing motion across his throat and pointed to the left. We could hear faint voices approaching so we calmly but quickly walked up the ramp to the next level.

After making sure nobody was following us and that nobody was on the next level, we hesitated briefly before deciding to go up one more level. We made a complete circuit of that level but it was deserted.

Arriving back at our starting point, we took deep breaths and carefully crawled out(literally) to get a look at the field. None of us were prepared for what we saw.

The field below had been divided into hundreds of cells of different sizes, each with thick, plastic walls. Some contained individuals, both men and women, while others housed entire families, some with very young children.

I don’t know how many people were locked in those things but it may have been in the thousands. Many of them glanced toward the center of the field every now and then and all of them looked very, very scared.

I looked for faces I recognized. Two in particular but I didn’t see them. At one point, I thought I saw Amy Welborn and her family but I wasn’t sure.

Armed guards casually strolled around. As we watched, one of them, just for “fun,” aimed his gun at a very young little girl, screamed and pretended to pull the trigger, causing her to shriek in terror and run into the arms of her mother, crying inconsolably.

As the guard walked away laughing, I could feel Dale tense up and reach for his gun. “My silencer works,” he whispered. “They’d never figure it out.”

“I know,” I said in a low voice. “Nobody would like to drop the guy more than I would. But that’s not what we’re about. Have you spotted the bomb yet?”

“Dead center,” whispered Greg, pointing at the middle of the field.

“So of course they put the Pope there,” said Price. “And is that Dr. Graham next to him? And Mother Angelica? And those have to be Akinola and Arinze.”

I took out my digital camera and began snapping as many pictures as I could. The zoom on the camera was sufficient for tight shots so I took as many of these as I could, getting as many different people as possible as well as three shots of the bomb. “That should be enough for a warrant. Let’s get out of here.”

The three of us went back downstairs, hesitating briefly at each level to make sure no one was there. For a few tense moments, we had to stop before we got back to the first floor to let some people pass. Then we hurried across, unlocked the door, went outside, locked the door behind us and ran back to the Nissan.

I handed Greg my camera. “Upload these to the laptop and get ’em off to Colleen.” Then I called her. “Kid? Chris. It’s definitely the Ed. Some pictures are on their way. Guess it’s your ballgame from here on out.”

“Not entirely,” Colleen said. “This time, the President wants you guys along if you’re willing. We might need your expertise. And I want you there for your families.”

I looked at Dale and Greg and both of them smiled and nodded. “I guess we’re in,” I said. “Where are you guys?”

“The Civil Courts Building.”

“We’re on our way.”

7:00 PM – We walked into the Civil Courts Building. Guards at the the door immediately waved us through, saying, ”Seventh floor.”

We rode the elevator to the FBI command center where Colleen and Allen greeted us. “We’re getting the warrant now,” she told me. “Go get yourselves some body armor.”

The three of us were fitted for body armor and then loaded up with as much ammo as we could carry. I introduced Dale and Greg to St. Louis Police Chief Joe Mokwa. “How many men have you got on this?” I asked him.

“No idea,” Chief Mokwa told me, chuckling. “Just about every force on both sides of the river is represented here tonight. We had more volunteers than we had slots. I’m in overall command.”

“Just tell us where you want us,” Price told him. “And good luck, Chief.”

“You too,” said Mokwa.

Chief Mokwa left to go to his command post. For the next ten minutes, Allen, Colleen, Dale, Greg, the other FBI agents and officials in the room and I tried to make small talk but failed miserably. Then a worried-looking aide came in and motioned for Allen.

Something was wrong. As Allen and his aide talked, Allen got more and more agitated. Colleen walked over and joined the conversation for a while. As she walked back toward me, the look on her face was a combination of stunned disbelief and fear.

“What’s up?” I asked.

“We…we…didn’t get the warrant.”

“What?!!” Dale, Greg and I exclaimed all at once.

“There was a lawyer waiting when our people got there and he contested everything. In the end, the judge said she wasn’t convinced by the pictures. Said it could have been anything. We can’t go in, Chris. Not legally.”

“What’s this judge’s name?” Dale asked.

“Margaret Stevens-Wilson.”

“Don’t tell me,” said Greg.

“Yup. Senior warden, All Saints Episcopal Church here in town. Member, Episcopal Peace Fellowship.”

“Can’t we get another judge?” I demanded.

“Not until 9:30 tonight.” Colleen slammed the side of a table with her hand. “Frankly, most of us are talking about going in anyway. Screw the career.”

“Hold up. We might be able to provide you with some cover,” I told her. With a slight shake of my head, I signaled for my two associates to join me away from the others.

“Dude?” Dale said. “You’re the best there is. I’m the best there is. Chances are, Greg’s the best there is. But there is no way in hell that we can take them down by ourselves.”

“Wasn’t planning on it,” I replied. “I’ve got an idea. Colleen? Allen?” I said, motioning both over. “Tell your people to stay in place. Alert Chief Mokwa.

“In about ten or fifteen minutes, there’s going to be a 911 call from a member of the Ed’s maintenance staff about a gun battle. Patch it through to the Chief at once. You come in and we’ll sort it out later.”

Allen and Colleen looked at each other. “Do it,” Allen told me.

I spotted somebody’s flip-top water bottle. “This will do nicely. Have you guys still got that knockout agent I gave you?” Dale and Greg gave me their bottles and I poured everything into the water bottle. “Oh and I’m going to need gas masks.”

“We have these,” said Allen, handing us some small units, “but they only last fifteen minutes.”

“Perfect. We’ll see you in a little bit. Head out and get into position now.”

Griffith, Price and I went downstairs, got in the Nissan and headed north. “They’re going to be waiting for us,” said Dale.

“That’s what this stuff is for,” I said, holding up the water bottle.

“You can’t spray them all at once,” said Greg.

“Won’t have to.”

We found the parking lot we were in before, parked the car and started walking toward the Dome. “The plan,” I told them, “is to get in, take the first entrance we come to, get on the field and secure the bomb.

“I’m not interested in killing anybody. I just want to make a lot of noise. Once we get going, Greg here makes the 911 call and reports the gun battle.”

“Which they’ll hear,” said Price.

“With any kind of luck. Hopefully, we can hold them off long enough for the St. Louis police and the FBI to get in. At which point we back off.”

We got to the door and put on our gas masks. On the other side, we could hear voices. As Dale stuck the key in the lock, the voices fell silent. I began vigorously shaking the water bottle. When the knockout agent turned gray, I signaled to Dale who opened the door.

I flipped open the bottle and tossed it inside. A cloud quickly emerged from the bottle and I could hear people dropping. After five seconds or so, I said, “Go, go, go, go, go!”

The three of us ran inside, into an entrance that was right in front of us and down toward the field. In front of us, we saw Andrew Sullivan who reached for a walkie-talkie.

“Freeze, Sully!” Price shouted. “There’s a door straight up these stairs. If I’m you, I use it.” Sullivan hesitated a moment and then ran shrieking past us and out of the Ed.

We jumped on to the field and sprinted toward the bomb, firing in the general direction of the guards and causing them to dive for cover. They were more surprised than anything else.

All around us, we could hear people screaming, “Help us! Get us out of here!” We got to the bomb and frightened off its only guard. Then as Dale and I began firing in the general direction of the guards and the rest of the EPF/Maryknollers, I shouted, “Greg! Make the call!

Griffith hid himself as best he could and dialed 911. “911? There’s some kind of gun battle going on at the Edward Jones Dome. I don’t know who they are, I’m just on the maintenance staff here. Send help quick!”

After what seemed like an eternity but was probably only a couple of minutes, we heard shouts off in the distance. Our attackers suddenly stopped firing and put their hands in the air. A bomb disposal unit ran in, jumped on the field and ran toward us. It was over.

8:00 PM – The police and FBI agents stayed off the field while the bomb unit did its work. So Greg, Dale and I went off looking for our families.

As I walked through the cells, none of the prisoners said anything to me. Some held their hands to the glass as I passed, others mouthed the words “Thank you” but most just stared at me. One beautiful little girl did say something. “Sir?” she shyly asked. “Is it almost over?”

“Yeah, sweetie, I think it is,” I told her. “Just wait a little bit longer.”

Then I saw her in a cell about thirty yards away. Paul was asleep in a crib but Nicole stood there staring at me. I broke into a sprint. When I got to within ten yards, I heard Colleen over the PA system. “Chris! Dale! Greg! We need you at the bomb immediately!”

I looked back toward the bomb and then at Nicky. “I…I have…I have to…”

My wife’s smile was angelic as she raised her hand and mouthed the words, “I know. Go.”

I ran back to the bomb. Greg and Dale were already there. “Chris?” said Colleen, pointing to two of the bomb disposal technicians, “this is James Wirrell and this is Mark Windsor. We’ve got a serious problem.”

“Basically,” said Wirrell, “we can’t disarm the bomb.”

“Why not?” I asked.

“There are electronic sensors running the entire length of the bomb and its entire circumferance,” said Windsor. “They’re spaced at 1/32nd of an inch apart. If any of those are cut, the bomb goes off. We have 1/64th of a inch to play with.”

“And we’re in the window right now, aren’t we?” asked Wirrell. I nodded.

“We can do it, we have the equipment,” said Windsor. “But considering what that thing’s made of, we estimate that it will take us four hours.  Minimum.”

I looked at Dale and Greg. “Then we’ll do the only thing we can do. Colleen, have you got a van that’s fully gassed up?”

“Yeah, straight that way,” said Colleen.

“Show us where it is and then tell everybody to stay out of our way.” Greg pulled a cart over, we put the bomb on it and then raced out of the Ed, Colleen leading the way.

As we got outside, Colleen shouted, “It’s over there! And the keys should be in it!”

“Greg, do you have the laptop?”

“Yeah!” Greg replied.

“Then Dale drives, you watch the Nexis and I watch the bomb.”

We loaded the bomb into the back of the van, climbed in and Dale sped away, quickly reaching more than 100 miles an hour. Fortunately, the Illinois Highway Patrol had been alerted so there wasn’t any traffic as we crossed the river into Illinois.

“Where’s the Nexis?” I asked.

“Following us,” Griffith said.

“Chicago?” wondered Price.

“With any kind of luck. Take 64 and floor it.”

“We’re out ahead of it,” said Greg.  “Fifteen minutes but it’s gaining, Chris!”

We tore across central Illinois, Dale getting everything he could out of the van. I have no idea exactly where we were when I looked at the bomb timer and shouted, “Sixty seconds!”

“We’re out!!” screamed Greg.

“Up there!!” shouted Dale. “The creek bed!!”

Dale slowed the van to stop and then he and I got out, took out the bomb, sprinted toward a creek bed and hurled it in. The bomb suddenly began to glow with a bright orange glow that was blinding. Then it faded as the bomb dissolved into dust.

As we turned back toward the van, Griffith got out and stood next to it. “No effect,” he said with a smile. “The Nexis is still in one piece.”

Epilogue
We took our time getting back. We were just about to Teutopolis so we pulled into the home of the Wooden Shoes, gassed up and got something to eat. I guess it was our exhaustion that prevented us from noticing all the people staring and pointing at us and the unusual excitement of our waitress.

Somewhere in central Illinois, we saw something we thought was odd. A family stood by the side of the road. Thinking they needed help, Dale slowed down only to have the family start jumping up and down, cheering and taking our pictures. We stopped, got out and let them take a few more formal ones before we continued.

As we drove west, we saw more and more of them. Ones became tens, ten became hundreds, hundreds became thousands and thousands became tens of thousands. As we approached St. Louis, we were stopped by an Illinois highway patrolman. ”What’s going on?” I asked him.

“You’re what’s going on,” he replied. ”You’re getting an escort into St. Louis.”

There had to have been a million people on both the Missouri and Illinois riverfronts. Where they came from, I have no idea. As we crossed the Martin Luther King Bridge, with police cars in front of and in back of us, hundreds of thousands of flashbulbs went off, making the Gateway Arch sparkle like a diamond.

“Oh my God,” murmured Greg.

When we got to the Missouri side of the river, the St. Louis police took over. “We’re taking you back to the Dome,” one of them told us. “All the hostages are getting looked over by medical personnel. You guys should be done with your press conference by the time they’re finished.”

We arrived back at the Dome. I had never seen so many press in one place. The three of us were escorted to microphones. “Uh…guys?” said Greg. “I’ve never done anything like this before so any pointers would be appreciated.”

“The main thing,” said Dale, “is to look like you’ve been here before.”

“How do you do that?”

“What I generally do,” I said, “is to look bored. That usually takes care of it.”

For a presser broadcast worldwide on every television station in the world, this one was remarkably easy. We made a point of deferring to Allen and Colleen who were standing off to one side. After about an hour and a half, I cut things off and Dale, Greg and I headed into the Ed.

Greg’s CETU associates came out first and he introduced us around. Then Kathy Shaidle, Binky, Amy Welborn, Mark Shea, Captain Yips, Wannabe (Newbie) Anglican, Janjan, Dawn Eden and Sue Dallstream came out with their families and a good many of their friends. All of these, of course, had to meet and thank us.

In the midst of all this, I noticed a woman and some kids standing off to one side staring at Greg so, with a hard elbow in his ribs, I drew his attention to them. “Guys, I’ve got to…I’ve got to…” he stammered.

“What you’ve got to do is get over there, slick,” said Dale. Griffith started over, stopped and turned back. Price grinned at him. “Greg? It’s been a pleasure working with you.” I shot Greg a grin of my own. At that, Griffith smiled back, pointed at Price and I, ran over to his family and hugged all of them hard.

For a few more minutes, Dale and I accepted the thanks of the hostages, some of whom we knew, most of whom we didn’t. Then I noticed a woman, two daughters and a son materialize off to my left.

Dale saw them too. As usual, his parting was completely unemotional. “C? Until next time.” He ran over, hugged his kids more than once and started to leave. Before Price left, he stopped, looked at me and, with an expressionless face, raised his hand. I raised mine back.

I was alone. I was used to accepting adulation all by myself but today I didn’t want to. While shaking this hand and that one, I continually scanned the crowd in search of two people.

Then I saw them.

Nicky approached me slowly. Paul recognized me and greeted me with as delighted a smile as I’d ever seen from him.  I walked toward my wife and stood there for a few seconds. All I could manage was a lame, “Hi, honey.”

“Tough day?” was all Nicky could get out before she collapsed, sobbing, into my arms. Then, oblivious and indifferent to everything and everybody, I held my wife and my son for a very long time.

Eventually I whispered into my wife’s ear, “I’ve got an idea.”

“What?” Nicky whispered back into mine.

“Let’s go home.”

ANSWERING MY COMMENT SPAM

Saturday, April 28th, 2012 | Uncategorized | 24 Comments

Umm… I’m kind of frustrated in terms of step a couple of and about three.

I hear you, brother.  Step a couple of and about three drives me up a freaking wall.  I get laughed out of square dancing every single time I try to pull off that move.

I are unable

I don’t mean to be pedantic but it’s “I am unable.”

to get this picture compete in the minimal layer face mask. HELPPPPPPP!!!!!!

Have your picture compete in the maximum layer face mask.  If that doesn’t work, I don’t know what else to tell you.  And stop spitting on me.

I get so excited when Planting season comes close to!

Hey, who doesn’t?

Time to acquire those dresses from the closet and showcase your thighs and leg!

I’ve seen my thighs and leg.  That’s why I got rid of all my dresses years ago.

Also awesome there is no 1 else inside the elevator whilst your running late and you in all the way to your current floor with no stopping (together with or without the presence of aide with the call cancel press button).

Got that right.  Makes my whole day, pretty much.  Although I don’t usually need an elevator to get to my current floor and most high-rise buildings stopped hiring call cancel press button aides years ago although upscale ones still employ them.

I can’t discover why this seriously isn’t already an incredible Thing.

Who says it’s not?  Whatever it might turn out to be.

What a large amount of!!

I know I need to drop some pounds.  There’s no need to be snotty about it.

Please compel me towards One24 Strength Team Mastermind Party that’s such an awesome thing!

Okay.  Go towards One24 Strength Team Mastermind Party.  The awesome one, not the boring one.  Do it!!  NOW!!

I do this pretty much every morning.

You do what every morning?  Confuse people?

ps. frank rocks !!

Which Frank are you referring to?  Frank J.?  I’ll have to agree with you there, what with me stealing this concept from him and all.  Also, there’s the fact that he’s got this totally awesome Kindle book that you really should buy because it’s totally awesome and another totally awesome Kindle book due out in September that you can pre-order.

LET YOUR YES BE YES

Friday, April 27th, 2012 | Uncategorized | 59 Comments

I think most people would agree, as the saying goes, that honesty is the best policy.  At the end of the day, it’s better to be straight with people than to deceive them.  The Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans/GAFCON group would like to establish a parallel jurisdiction for traditionalist British Anglicans:

The Primates of the FCA have assured us that, through instruments now available in this country, including the panel of bishops of the Anglican Mission in England and the FCA UK, those who might otherwise have been under pressure to leave the Church of England can remain within the family of global Anglicanism and be recognized by that body as faithful  to the Church of England itself.

At the FCA Leadership Conference this Monday, Archbishop Eliud Wabukala reported in his Chairman’s keynote address:  ‘Last year, it became clear that provision needs to be made for England too. The Anglican Mission in England was formed last June after four years of discussion with senior Anglican leaders in England had failed to find a way in which those genuinely in need of effective orthodox oversight in the Church of England could receive it’.

The AMiE has already acted to provide oversight to churches, including arranging the ordination of some ministers. For the future it is ready to extend this ministry, and to expand its panel of bishops accordingly. Parish Incumbents who affirm the Jerusalem Declaration are invited to meet on Wednesday 27th June to pray and make progress together.

A regular commenter at Jim Naughton’s who calls himself Leonardo Ricardo responded.

The only Anglicans insisting and demanding that they are the all-holy/all-knowing and ¨better thans¨ are the same Anglicans who can NOT serve or minister properly or serve their tortured/desperate citizens in their blood flowing cultures at home…the powerful attraction to the GAFCON meet-ups must be purely driven FEAR, hate/jealousy, greed and/or desperation.

In the face of superstition, vertical corruption, alcoholism/drug addiction, basic incompetance (money mismanagement) and moral defeat (Nigeria, Uganda, Jamaica/West Indies come to mind)the grass appears greener in England, Canada, the Americas and beyond.

Of course people are going to rush to God when they are in horrible and unthinkable daily pain but where is the God of love amongst the schismatic leaders, the priestly demonizers, the unholy outcasters, the bishop poachers/thieves and the arrogant everday bigots who harm others both at home and abroad?

I shudder when I wonder what ongoing pogroms, LGBT and Heterosexual bloodbaths will ensue before these not-so-orthodox Anglicans realize the harm that do as they plot against innocents everywhere in the name of their own piety!

The comments at Jim’s site are moderated so one assumes that someone over there believed that racist crap was worth publishing and, by extension, agreeing with.  But as far as I’m concerned, I’d much rather deal with a guy with an SS ring, a medallion with Hitler’s portrait on it, a Nazi Party badge, a well-thumbed copy of Mein Kampf in his library and a Nazi flag on the wall over his bed. 

Because one of the ugliest of all human traits is hypocrisy.

NOTHING TO SEE HERE

Thursday, April 26th, 2012 | Uncategorized | 50 Comments

Much of the left continues to go bat crap over the Vatican’s recent attempt to rein in the radical feminism of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious.  Paul Gorrell, Ph. Friggin’ D And Don’t You Bitches Ever Forget It wonders why the Catholic bishops secretly want to kill their moms, their sisters and their aunts all of a sudden:

The Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) received a harsh condemnation from the Vatican after a three-year study into its practices and stances. The critique expresses concerns that women religious have been too tolerant in their views about sexuality, too supportive of universal health care despite its long history within official Catholic social teaching, and too silent in opposition to abortion. As we have watched the U.S. bishops become completely identified with right wing Christian politics in recent years, we now see the Vatican join the current “war on women” that is dominating the presidential race on the Republican side.

But this is not a new war for the Vatican. This is old time religion. The Catholic Church has been a repressive place for women for its entire history. We could easily point to the exclusion of women as priests, a role which presides over the Sacraments which bind the church community to each other and to the divine source of life. Finally, at Vatican II in the 1960s, women were allowed to have more participation in the Catholic liturgy by reading from the Scripture, serving at the altar and providing the Sacrament of the Eucharist to parishioners. Under the current Pope, all reforms of Vatican II are being questioned with the inclusion of women in specific ministerial roles in jeopardy.

But a more telling statistic about the importance of women’s voices in the Catholic Church is found in its official teaching. Despite the hard work of nuns and lay women who are often the heart of local parishes and schools, no single document ever published by the Catholic Church has ever been written by a woman or a group of women. For 2,000 years, each and every teaching of the Catholic Church has been the viewpoint of men. And, more than not, women were not even consultant about the content. This includes church documents written about women and their role in society and the church. And, of course, it includes official teaching on sexuality and motherhood.

While over at Religion Dispatches, Mary Hunt emotes all over everything, makes an awful mess and generously proves the Vatican’s entire point for it.

The crux of the matter, as it were, is that most of the nuns, like many Catholics, have matured beyond the Vatican’s imaginings. The notion that postmodern Catholics assent to “the doctrine of the faith that has been revealed by God in Jesus Christ, presented in written form in the divinely inspired Scriptures, and handed on in the Apostolic Tradition under the guidance of the Church’s Magisterium,” (or, simply, the fathers know best) is simply ludicrous. 

The truth is, most Catholics no longer look to Rome for guidance on our personal lives, or anyone else’s. Nor do we live within the narrow confines of a cultic Christianity, or, as women, accept male leadership and priestly ministry as if theirs were God-given and ours were not. We appreciate the complexity of these matters and strive to create forums in which to listen, discuss, discern, and pray.

And finally, there’s the current “war on women,” with Catholic bishops leading the charge. In the U.S., it is manifest in the skirmishes around reproductive rights. Young and poor women suffer greatly, but all women are implicated in these policy conflicts. Around the world, we find the Vatican successfully making alliances with other religious fundamentalists to prevent UN-based consensus on women’s reproductive health care. Casualties are many among poor and young women, the very ones the nuns would protect. So it is no surprise that the same bellicose ways operate within the kyriarchal church itself.

Are the sadistic bullies at the Holy See basically just beating up a bunch of LCWR old ladies who are only trying to serve the Lord as best they can?  A guy named Tom McDonald recently ran across an interesting tidbit.  Seems that the keynote speaker at the upcoming LCWR Assembly here in St. Louis will be a woman named Barbara Marx Hubbard who wrote and apparently believes the following:

It has become obvious that a creative minority of humanity is undergoing a profound inner mutation or transformation. Evolutionary ideas are not only serving to make sense of this change, but also acting to catalyze the potential within us to transform. (Thought creates; specific thought creates specifically.)

It is the planetary crisis into which we were born that is awakening our sleeping potential for transformation. Planet Earth has given birth to a species capable of choosing whether to consciously evolve ourselves and our social forms, or to continue the course we have set toward our own extinction. And the choice is clear.

All great spiritual paths lead us to this threshold of our own consciousness, but none can guide us across the great divide — from the creature human to the cocreative human. None can guide us in managing the vast new powers given us by science and technology. None of us have been there yet.

The enriched noosphere, the thinking layer of Earth, is now replete with evolutionary technologies that can transform the material world. Within the next 30 to 50 years, we could transform our physical bodies, our minds, our social structures, and set in motion the emergence of a new civilization.

Ohhhhhhhhhh…kay.

As we shift from maximum procreation to cocreation, the Feminine would be liberated from its restrictive roles, as men and women cocreate in a balanced way for the good of the larger human family. The Masculine would be released from its long-standing roles of patriarch and protector to discover the peace and ease of true relationship and cocreation.

Patterns of unification are set in motion already, as nonprofit, corporate, and governmental alliances are built around countless initiatives. Those that are successful are already witnessing the melting of borders and boundaries that have prevented successful compromise and negotiation in the past. Political events, like the fall of the Berlin wall, are foreshadowing the possibility of unification around the globe, and creating the hope that seemingly insurmountable problems may find yet find solutions.

The high-grade Humboldt County chronic is strong in this one.

Jesus said, “These and even greater works shall you do.” We may actually be on the threshold of those abilities that Christ was able to do and that He foresaw as possibilities for us all. Specifically, the ability to use conscious intent, perhaps in conjunction with scientific and technological capacities, will allow us to create bodies sensitive to thought. We may find ourselves transforming the human body from its physical, animal, degenerating phase to a regenerating and evolving phase.

This capability would be the fulfillment of the words of St. Paul: “Behold I show you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed in the twinkling of an eye at the last trump; for the trumpet shall sound. This corruptible will become incorruptible. This mortal will put on immortality and death shall be swallowed up in victory.”

This would also be the emergence of what Alan Lithman calls, psyche materialis, and what the Bible calls, Adam of the quickening Spirit. [And so it was written: the first Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. (1 Cor. 15:45).]

Sri Aurobindo named the human being with this ability, the gnostic being; Teilhard de Chardin called it the ultra person; and I have selected the name, universal human and universal humanity. This type of human is a quantum jump beyond the species Homo sapiens. It is a new species that is incubating in millions now.

This is a Naissance; this is new for Earth — but it is not new for the universe. The name universal human is good because it connotes the reality that we are entering the phase of universal life.

So bring a jacket.  Babs explains the Resurrection of Jesus Christ this way.

Although we may never know what really happened, we do know that the story told in the Gospels is that Jesus’ resurrection was a first demonstration of what I call the post-human universal person. We are told that he did not die. He made his transition, released his animal body, and reappeared in a new body at the next level of physicality to tell all of us that we would do what he did. The new person that he became had continuity of consciousness with his life as Jesus of Nazareth, an earthly life in which he had become fully human and fully divine. Jesus’ life stands as a model of the transition from Homo sapiens to Homo universalis.

To sum up.

Now millions of earthly humans from every spiritual tradition, from many social movements and scientific lineages of human inquiry, are evolving to the stage at which they recognize their soul, their higher self. They are becoming willing, even passionately desire, to be one with that Self. And as a critical mass of humans evolving toward their new capacities arise, humanity will undergo an unprecedented shifting in our entire way of being on this planet.

We are the generations born into this moment in history. Our powers are immense. We can destroy the earth as we know it, or alternatively, transform the material and societal limits of human life. We or our children may actually live to experience either the destruction of our life support systems (with unimaginable consequences for billions of people), or the literal transformation of our bodies from creature human life cycle to cocreative human life cycle. The choice is ours.

I don’t want to be judgmental here (oh, who am I kidding, of course I do) but any allegedly-Christian organization that invites Barbara Marx Hubbard to give the keynote address to one of its conferences does not need reformation.

It needs elimination.

Long-time Anglican watchers should recognize the Episcopalianism going on here.  Take a position on Issue A that not only dissents from but completely contradicts the Catholic Church’s position on Issue A.

Angrily insist that you have the right to hold that position, that you must obey God rather than man, even if that man is your bishop, that God alone rules your conscience and that no one can or better say that you’re not as good a Roman Catholic as anyone.  The pseudo-conciliatory bromides about how more unites us than divides us and coming together around the Eucharist despite our differences should be along any day now.

Of course if you’re as patient as Episcopal liberals were and your viewpoint on Issue A manages to achieve critical mass, two things will eventually happen.  Your opinion will predominate in your little section of the Catholic Church while the opinion you originally opposed will become more and more marginalized as the people who hold it decamp for Orthodoxy or other churches.

Eventually, your side will decide what “orthodoxy” is, who graduates from seminaries and who does not.  If your party picks the clergy, eventually, it’s also going to pick the bishop.  Extend this process out years if not decades and the Roman Catholic Church will eventually turn into what the Anglican Communion is now. 

A spiritual expression, to paraphrase Metternich.

The leftists are quite right about one thing.  Catholic bishops have no claim on the consciences of Catholics.  Newsflash: everybody’s known that for a very long time and the bishops never claimed to anyway.

A Roman Catholic may find that his conscience, or what he claims is his conscience, no longer allows him to accept Catholic teaching on this or that topic.  The traditional remedy for this situation is for him to find a church whose teachings he does accept.

Catholic bishops do not, indeed cannot, tell you what to think.  But what they can do, indeed must do what with having taken vows before God and all, is tell you what being a Roman Catholic means.  It’s up to you what you do with that information.

But it is most emphatically not up to you or to the Leadership Conference of Women Religious to decide what Roman Catholic dcotrine should or should not be.  Take up that role and you will soon be deciding what is a sin and what shouldn’t be a sin any longer. 

If enough of you do that, you will soon start hearing from the pulpit about how Jesus never turned anyone away, about how His love was all-inclusive, about how He associated with outcasts and the “marginalized” and other similar bumper stickers.

As time goes by, you will find fewer and fewer Catholics in your pews.  Then fewer and fewer Catholic parishes.  Then fewer and fewer Catholic dioceses and archdioceses.  Eventually, the Roman Catholic Church, in this country at least, will literally be indistinguishable from the Episcopal Organization.

Which is and has always been the goal of the Catholic left.

LETCH

Thursday, April 26th, 2012 | Uncategorized | 7 Comments

Mitt Romney picks up a key endorsement:

Although it’s his magazine, Playboy founder Hugh Hefner doesn’t frequently take to its pages to wax poetic about one thing or another. In the May issue, however, Hefner pens a rare, full-page editorial on an unsurprising topic: Sex.

This time, it’s political, however. In “The War Against Sex,” Hefner blasts “repressed conservatives” who he says are “pounding on America’s bedroom door.”

“For months I have watched the rhetoric building,” writes Hefner. “Last October, in an interview with an evangelical blogger, Rick Santorum promised to defund birth control on the grounds that contraception is ‘a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.’ … Ron Paul was no better, believing that the birth control pill did not cause immorality but that immorality creates the problem of wanting to use the pill. Mitt Romney vowed to see a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and to overturn Roe v. Wade

“All these years later I hear echoes of this same ignorance espoused by a new crop of self-appointed arbiters who are determined to oversee our morality. I heard it when Santorum backer Foster Friess said, ‘Back in my days, [women] used Bayer aspirin for contraceptives,’ implying that if women held an aspirin between their legs, they wouldn’t open them. I heard it when I learned about proposed anit-abortion legislation in Kansas that would protect doctors who conceal vital medical information from pregnant women. And I heard it when Rush Limbaugh called a Georgetown University law student a ‘slut’ and a ‘prostitute’ after she testified on Capitol Hill about allowing employers to avoid providing contraception for religious reasons. … Fifty years of sexual freedom vanished in a sound bite.”

If Barack Obama has a brain cell in his head, he’ll run from the old deviant as fast as his legs can carry him.  If Mitt Romney has a brain cell in his, his campaign will pay to have copies of this thing sent everywhere they can possibly send it.

DON’T QUIT YOUR DAY JOB!!

Thursday, April 26th, 2012 | Uncategorized | 24 Comments

Nevada Episcopal Bishop Dan Edwards tries his hand at humorous comedy:

So here’s the plan. Instead of redirecting a paltry few million dollars from overhead to mission in our operating budget, let’s make a real adaptive change. First, sell everything. I mean everything — the offices at 815, John the Divine, the Washington Cathedral, All Saints Pasadena — just for starters, then our houses and jet skis. We can keep cars and golf clubs. Nothing radical here. Anglican moderation at every step.

You suck, Edwards!!

Then we all move to Montana — over a million of us — elect the public officials, establish an Anglican cultural enclave, become the regional version of normal, build a huge Cathedral and complex of edifices, then invest the rest of our money in p r and supporting Episcopal Youth Service Corps all over the country. Slowly but surely, plant little Montanas all over the USA.

You’re not funny!!

Now here’s our niche. The LDS already has a lock on genealogy. We cannot compete with that but we can complement it. Instead of a family history library we hire a crack team of psychics and futurists to staff our family future library. People will go to Salt Lake to learn about their ancestors, then on to Helena to learn about their descendants.

Bring out the headliner!!  And can I get a frickin’ waitress over here?!!

Finally, we replace Hyfrydol and some of our other boring music with a new theme song. “Turn Me Loose Set Me Free Somewhere In The Middle Of Montana.” Now the scary part: I am on the structure committee for General Convention. Beware of mad men in high places.

Sounds like the crickets like it, Dan.

JUNGLE BOOGIE

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012 | Uncategorized | 57 Comments

New York Episcopal priest, consultant and leftist tool Tom Ehrich recently strapped on the ol’ pith helmet and explored darkest Kansas:

I came home from a weekend of consulting in Topeka, Kansas, feeling weary.

Kansas can really take it out of you.

But mainly I felt disoriented, like after a sleepless night. In Topeka I had seen the future of America, and it worried me.

Why is that, Tom?

I saw racial tensions still high 58 years after Brown v. (Topeka) Board of Education outlawed segregated public schools, but also launched “white flight” to the suburbs. In one of those suburbs, a watchful neighbor recently called police when he saw a black man walking out front. It turned out the black pedestrian was a neighbor living nearby.

You saw all that after one weekend in Topeka, Kansas?

I saw state government in the hands of right-wing ideologues being bankrolled by the Koch brothers of Wichita. These sanctimonious evangelicals are rushing to curb freedoms and opportunity for all but a few.

Damn it, Tom!!  Would it kill you to warn a guy when you mention the [shudder] Koch brothers?  Some of my readership is sensitive about these things, douchenozzle.

And you have in your hands a list of [INSERT SCARY NUMBER HERE] sanctimonious evangelicals in the Kansas legislature, do you?  I’d call you out for your brain-dead libel against fellow Christians except for the fact that I have to get back to one basic fact.

You figured all this out after one weekend in Topeka, Kansas? 

I saw end-of-empire circuses, like the Kansas Motor Speedway hosting a major NASCAR race, alongside unmistakable signs of economic decay, such as crumbling streets, rising unemployment, steadily declining home values, vacant storefronts, and empty parking lots. The speedway just added a $380 million casino and hotel.

For crying out loud, Tom, were you born that dense or do you wear out two or three bongs a year?  I’ll try to type slower this time.  You saw all that after ONE LOUSY WEEKEND in Topeka, Kansas?

I don’t speak against Topeka, for the city seemed charming in many respects. But what I experienced there crystallized perceptions I have had throughout recent travels across the U.S.

Or I decided what I wanted to think before I left New York and then found two or three liberals who agree with me but who may or may not have ever actually visited Kansas, never mind lived there or spent the night.

Except for pockets of energy and optimism, the prevailing atmosphere seems new and yet worn, busy and yet listless, like a house that was built quickly and doesn’t survive its first owners. I see worry, frustration, and a mounting sense of a dream stolen.

And heads up, Episcopalians.  The sanctimonious evangelicals are coming for you.

As right-wing ideologues try to turn this very dissatisfaction and frustration into a power grab, progressive Christians find themselves both a target and a much-needed voice.

If you’re wondering if Ehrich thinks Barack Obama can wake us from our long national nightmare during his second term, Tom apparently thinks Romney’s pretty much a lock.

We need to stay awake as the darkness of gloom and repression looms. We need to feel the despair surging around us and understand it as a call to mission. We need to stay with our neighbors, even as they retreat to circuses. We need to speak truth to power, even as well-funded power strikes back.

Sounds pretty bad.  But since you mentioned well-funded power, Tom, maybe you could hit George Soros up for a few more millions so you could start yet another cable “news” TV network and get the word out because Vague, Ambiguous, Infinitely-Malleable, Episcopal Deity Concept knows that the left can’t be heard anywhere these days.

UPDATE: Tom?  Jim Rogers wants to know if you actually went to Topeka.  Because he noticed a slight discrepancy in your piece.  Nothing much, really.

If he saw Kansas Motor Speedway from Topeka, he’s got a great set of eyes. The track is in Kansas City, Kansas.

THE POPEYE EFFECT

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012 | Uncategorized | 5 Comments

or, Your Tax Dollars At Work.

STANDING EIGHT COUNT II

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012 | Uncategorized | 14 Comments

To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, you would have to have a heart of stone not to feel sorry for Solicitor General Donald “Punch Drunk” Verilli Jr.  He argued the constitutional case for ObamaCare before the Supreme Court and, by all accounts, got his ass handed to him.  Recently, Verilli argued against Arizona’s immigration law and did yet another stint as the Supreme Court’s favorite speed bag:

Supreme Court justices took a dim view of the Obama administration’s claim that it can stop Arizona from enforcing immigration laws, telling government lawyers during oral argument Wednesday that the state appears to want to push federal officials, not conflict with them.

The court was hearing arguments on Arizona’s immigration crackdown law, which requires police to check the immigration status of those they suspect are in the country illegally, and would also write new state penalties for illegal immigrants who try to apply for jobs.

The Obama administration has sued, arguing that those provisions conflict with the federal government’s role in setting immigration policy, but justices on both sides of the aisle struggled to understand that argument.

“It seems to me the federal government just doesn’t want to know who’s here illegally,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said at one point.

How bad was it?  The Wise Latina couldn’t for the life of her figure out why Verilli’s manager didn’t throw in the towel.

Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. said the federal government has limited resources and should have the right to determine the extent of calls it gets about possible illegal immigrants.

“These decisions have to be made at the national level,” he said.

But even Democratic-appointed justices were uncertain of that.

“I’m terribly confused by your answer,” said Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who went on to say that the federal government can always decline to pick up illegal immigrants when Arizona officials call.

But this bout wasn’t quite as bad as Verilli’s last one.

The Obama administration was on its firmest ground when it argued Arizona should not be allowed to impose state penalties such as jail time against illegal immigrants who try to seek jobs.

Federal law chiefly targets employers, not employees, and Mr. Verrilli said adding stiffer penalties at the state level is not coordination. He said Congress’s 1986 immigration law laying out legal penalties was meant to be a comprehensive scheme, and Congress left employees untouched — and Justice Sotomayor seemed to agree.

“It seems odd to think the federal government is deciding on employer sanctions and has unconsciously decided not to punish employees,” she told Paul D. Clement, who argued the case on behalf of Arizona.

So Verilli won a round or two.  I just hope he was conscious enough to realize it.

SCHADENFREUDE

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012 | Uncategorized | 23 Comments

Andrew Brown thinks John Sentamu will become the next Archbishop of Canterbury and Andy’s not at all happy about it.  Because in this case, the British left finds itself charged with a possible crime from which it has always believed itself immune:

John Sentamu, the archbishop of York, is expected to announce his candidature for Canterbury this week, by the opaquely Anglican manoeuvre of declining a place on the committee that will choose the next archbishop of Canterbury to succeed Rowan Williams. Already his allies are suggesting that only racism could keep him from the job.

In point of fact, Sentamu’s spokesman didn’t “suggest” anything at all.

“At its best the besmirching of John Sentamu has revealed that strand of snobbery which views outsiders as lacking class, diplomacy or civility – in other words ‘not one of us’. At worst it has elicited the naked racism which still bubbles under the surface in our society, and which is exposed when a black man is in line to break the chains of history.”

So if Sentamu doesn’t get the job, whatever white guy does will have his tenure doomed from the start.

Since Arora has just been appointed as head of all the Church of England’s communications, this is a fairly heavy accusation. If Sentamu does not now get the job, it will hang over the successful candidate in a rather nasty way.

On the other hand, if Sentamu does get the job…

And if he does, it will be open to his opponents to say, or at least to think, that he did so because it would have looked terribly racist not to give it him, and not because of his merits.

Whatever are British sophisticates to make of a guy who says stuff like this?

“Last year I stood in York city centre with over a hundred other people singing patriotic songs like Land of Hope and Glory, I Vow To Thee My Country and Rule Britannia, while York Minster’s carillon bells played along. It was absolutely fantastic, and we also raised a bit of money for Help for Heroes.

“We shouldn’t be shy about saying how great our country is. We should be proud. England is known the world over for her universal language, her sense of fair play and decency, the virtue of hope and her sense of hospitality.”

Sentamu’s a contradiction.

In some ways, he’s God’s gift to the Daily Mail: a black asylum seeker who doesn’t find English patriotism shameful or vulgar and who regards gay marriage as akin to something imposed by dictatorships. At the same time, his consistent support for Guardian-ish causes such as the humane treatment of asylum seekers, the spread of fair trade products, and action to end youth unemployment means that he can’t be written off as a creature of power. He has been poor. He has worked among poor people. He really cares about injustice.

Insert “but” here.

None the less, when clergy who have worked with him criticise him for “African” style, they are making a point which is not racist. The slow schism in the Anglican communion has exposed many people to a style of church leadership which they find repugnant.

Sounds like something a racist would say.

The style that people object to is autocratic, and prelatical. The idea that God blesses success, and that might therefore shows forth righteousness, is embedded in a lot of African religious culture. Sentamu’s younger brother, for example, is a hugely successful “Prosperity gospel” preacher in Kampala, with a mansion, a Mercedes, and a church where journalists are searched on entry. Authority, in such a church, is fawned on sooner than questioned.

There’s nothing essentially African about this.

Even though it’s “embedded in a lot of African religious culture.” But why can’t Sentamu be the right sort of African like St. Desmond of the Six-Figure Honorarium?

For one thing it is the opposite of Desmond Tutu’s manner; for another, it was the natural behaviour of archbishops of Canterbury up until about the retirement of Geoffrey Fisher, in 1961.

Andy thinks Sentamu’s pretty much a lock for Lambeth Palace.

I still think Sentamu will get the job – if only on the principle that in the last decades it has always gone to the candidate whose predecessor would least want him to get it. Ramsay thought little of Coggan; Coggan did not want Runcie; Runcie had scarcely heard of George Carey; he in his turn did all he could to block Williams.

Even though at the end of the day, he thinks Sentamu is a bad guy.  In a completely non-racist way, of course.

But as a journalist I dislike people who cannot decently conceal their ambition to manipulate the press. When “sources close to the archbishop” told the Telegraph that “he has only stepped down [from the committee choosing the archbishop of Canterbury] as he did not want to be seen to be influencing the appointment”, I wonder what kind of idiots the “sources” takes us for.

Granted, Dr. Sentamu does have certain theological problems.  And at this point, I don’t think it much matters who the next Archbishop of Canterbury is, either for the Church of England or for the Anglican Communion.

That said, I think Sentamu would be an outstanding choice for two reasons.  Of all the candidates mentioned, I think he would be the most likely to do what Rowan Williams refused to do and what the Archbishop of Canterbury has needed to do for ten years.

Say no to the North Americans.

Might that cause the US and Canada to bolt, possibly taking the British and European liberals with them?  Maybe.  But that may be what has to happen.  Anglicans desperately need a leader who will actually decide something for a change.

My other reason is much more basic.  If John Sentamu becomes the next Archbishop of Canterbury, the Anglican Communion, a Christian tradition second only to the Roman Catholic Church in worldwide influence, will be led by an African.  And the discomfort of the left will be positively off the charts.

CRAZY TALK

Monday, April 23rd, 2012 | Uncategorized | 37 Comments

The Episcopal Organization’s General Convention is coming up this summer and the first of the usual stupid resolutions have been posted.  For example, TEO believes that a city that makes its living off the rest of the country should become the 51st state:

Resolved , That the Convention recognize that this right to self-determination is explicitly stated in the Declaration of Independence’s statement that to secure their rights, “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the governed,” and in the preamble to the Constitution; and be it further

Resolved , That the Convention recognize that the people of the District of Columbia have been denied this right to self-determination for over two hundred years; and be it further

Resolved, That the Convention recognize that as a constitutional union of states, full rights in United States of America go to citizens of states, and that the people of the District of Columbia, in petitioning to hold a statehood constitutional convention, electing delegates, writing a constitution and approving that constitution for the State of New Columbia, have said that they want the State of New Columbia to be admitted to the union; and be it further

Resolved , That the Convention support the right of the people of the District of Columbia to enjoy the same rights as every other American, including the right to self-determination through statehood, and urge Congress to admit the State of New Columbia to the union.

There’s the usual Middle East cliche festival.

Resolved, That this Convention acknowledges the tragic histories of the Jewish and Palestinian people as victims of injustice, wars, dispersion and exile, the existential fear and insecurity this has created for both peoples and the distress their conflict has caused throughout the Middle East; and be it further

Resolved , That this Convention respects the profound commitment of Israelis and Palestinians to the land as their homeland; and be it further

Resolved , That this Convention calls upon Israelis and Palestinians to recognize one another’s right to statehood, economic viability, and security and that all other nations do likewise; and be it further

Resolved , That this Convention calls for the cessation of violence by all Palestinians and Israelis, and be it further

Resolved , That this Convention calls on the Government of the United States of America to practice financial transparency in all of its aid to the Palestinians and Israelis; and be it further

Resolved , That this Convention calls for an end of the air, water and land blockade of the Gaza Strip thereby permitting free and uninhibited access for all humanitarian assistance, for educational, reconstruction and development materials and for ordinary trade; and be it further

Resolved, That this Convention calls for a just resolution for Palestinian refugees; and be it further

Resolved, That this Convention calls for an end to the on-going confiscation of Palestinian land, demolition of housing, and the displacement of people; and be it further

Resolved, That this Convention calls for the creation of two states, with Jerusalem as their capital, and with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan and Egypt, and permanent Israeli borders with Palestine, based on the 1967 line, subject to mutually agreed upon swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both sides.

The Body and Blood of Christ?  Or Unitarianism with free snacks?

Resolved, the House of _______ concurring, That The Episcopal Church ratify the rubrics and practice of The Book of Common Prayer to invite all, regardless of age, denomination, or baptism to the altar for Holy Communion; and be it further

Resolved , That Canon 1.17.7: be deleted: (Sec. 7 No unbaptized person shall be eligible to receive Holy Communion in this Church) and Canon 1.17.8 be renumbered Canon 1.17.7.

In recent decades the Episcopal Church, with prayerful consideration and deliberation, has consistently moved to being a more inclusive, open and welcoming member of Christ’s Body. Such grace is riveted on the teachings and actions of Jesus and the compassionate embrace he had for all…no matter their creed or race. We believe it essential our Liturgy reflect the unconditional hospitality our Lord employed for his mission.

We believe such an open invitation for all to fully participate in the Eucharist is in keeping with our catechism’s teaching of grace: Grace is God’s favor toward us, unearned and undeserved; by grace God forgives our sins, enlightens our minds, stirs our hearts, and strengthens our wills.” (Catechism, p. 858)

We believe appropriate preparation and readiness to receive the spiritual body and blood of Christ is experienced within the unfolding of the Divine Liturgy, providing whatever an individual needs for examination, repentance and forgiveness amid the call to be in love and charity with all people. (Catechism, p. 860)

We know from our strivings within ecumenism and mission that the communion Christ intended for all is perilous and difficult, and that boldness in offering radical hospitality is our calling rather than canonically-driven caution.

In the run-up to GenCon 2012, there should be a lot more tasty Episcopal boneheadedness to come.  Watch this space for further developments.

UNIONS?

Monday, April 23rd, 2012 | Uncategorized | 11 Comments

Stick a sock in it.  Because you’re making total fools of yourselves:

In a lawsuit against three Indiana government officials, a labor union alleged on Wednesday that its constitutional rights under the Thirteenth Amendment — which outlawed “slavery” and “involuntary servitude” — are violated whenever its members are forced to work alongside nonunion employees.

The International Union of Operating Engineers, whose members work as heavy equipment operators, mechanics and construction surveyors, sued Indiana’s governor, attorney general, and labor commissioner in February, alleging that the state’s “right to work” law is unconstitutional.

Indiana’s law prohibits employers from making union membership a condition of getting or keeping a job. The union’s February lawsuit claimed the law violated its members’ Fourteenth Amendment guarantee of “equal protection” under the law.

But an amended complaint filed on Wednesday added a Thirteenth Amendment claim as well. The new lawsuit suggests that when nonunion employees earn higher salaries and better benefits because of the union’s negotiation on behalf of its members, the union has been forced to work for those nonunion employees for free.

And being forced to work without compensation, the union suggested in its revised lawsuit, is slavery.

24

Sunday, April 22nd, 2012 | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Part One / Part Two

The following takes place between 8:00 AM and 2:00 PM.

8:00 AM – We ate breakfast at Elkanah’s in Webster Groves. As Greg and I sipped coffee and nibbled on sausage and eggs, Dale was a bit too enthusiastically digging into his Clown Celebrant. “You know that thing’s going to kill you, don’t you, D?” I asked him. “Probably in the next couple of hours.”

“Whatever,” Price said without breaking stride. “I’ve had a good run and I’ve got tons of life insurance so Heather and the kids are set. DAYUM, this is good! The thing I’m wondering is, how am I going to explain to the family why a St. Louis vacation is a good idea.”

“Apart from the Tigers coming in for inter-league play, the Lions coming in to the Ed or the Wings hitting town to bitchslap the Blues some more, you’re on your own, my man. But next time you’re here, try Elkanah’s Clown Celebrant South St. Louis Special.”

“South St. Louis Special? What’s that?”

“For the Special, they add pork brains.”

“Pork brains?! Mother of pearl, I’m getting one tomorrow!” Greg shut his eyes and shook his head slowly.

Local news was on the television. Dale was about to say something when I recognized a face on the screen and held up my hand.

A prominent nun was attacked by three men in Webster Groves last night. Sister Joan Chittister says that as she was driving back to her hotel after a lecture at Webster University, three men suddenly pulled out guns and started shooting at her for no apparent reason, riddling her car with bullets. Chittister says that the three men drove off in a Toyota. Police officials will not speculate as to the reasons why Chittister might have been…

Dale and Greg looked at each other. At that very moment, my phone rang. “Chris? Colleen. What the hell did you guys do?”

“Nothing. It was Chittister who shot at us and I’ve got a chunk taken out of my leg to prove it. How do you know about this?”

“Your descriptions just came over the wire. One of them looks like a lot like you and another looks a lot like Dale. The liberals are screaming bloody murder and want an investigation so the President has made this a top priority. I’m heading it up and I just got into town.”

“Kid? Do you believe me?”

Colleen was silent for a long time. Finally she said, “Of course. Now what?”

“Begin the investigation. Any blood you find in Webster will probably be mine. Pay special attention to the busted windows along Lockwood because I believe you’ll find that they were made by an Uzi, a gun I do not own. But make sure that you check ballistics on Chittister’s car first thing. Later.”

I snapped my phone shut. “What do we do now?” Greg quietly asked.

“Split up.” I took two plastic cards out of my wallet and slid one toward Dale. “You’re Peter Sean Bradley again,” I told him. I slid the other toward Greg and said, “You’re Matt Kennedy.

“The two of you get out of here. One of you go east, the other go west. Find a convenient spot, call a cab and go to the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Clayton. Both of you get rooms. Dale? As soon as you get checked in, walk over to the St. Louis County Library branch nearby.

“It’s a block west on Carondelet, two blocks north on Bemiston and a half block west on Maryland. Sign on the Web, download the Anchoress’s software to a couple of Flash drives and get back to the hotel.

“Greg? Rent us some wheels, preferably a van. Then get Dale and drive out to Lone Elk Park. West on Interstate 44, hang a right at the Valley Park exit and follow the signs. Park by the Visitor’s Center. I’ll get the laptop and meet you there.”

The two of them stood up. “Where are you going?” Dale asked me.

“South.”

I watched them walk away. Then I had another leisurely cup of coffee, walked back up the street to the parking garage, got into the Toyota and drove to an apartment that I rent on 1224 South Elm Avenue. I keep it as a safe house for just this kind of this situation.

I parked the Toyota out of sight, walked upstairs and went inside. I turned on the air conditioner to freshen the air a bit, sat down in one of the two chairs in the room and stared out the window.

9:00 AM – I had never ever felt so alone. “Where are you, Nicky?” I whispered to the trees next door. For the first time in my illustrious career, I had serious doubts whether we could pull this off. They always seemed to be one step ahead of us.

After about half an hour, my phone rang. “Chris?” said Colleen. “You’re off the hook.”

“That’s great to hear. Why?”

“Ballistics on the bullets you guys allegedly shot at Chittister showed that they were fired by a Mahony-McCarrick .38. Standard issue for the Catholic left but not a gun anybody who wanted to actually hit something would use.”

“Figures.”

“And those bullets in Webster definitely came from an Uzi. Chittister must have dumped it but her story is beginning to fall apart anyway. Suddenly, she’s not as sure of her descriptions as she was before. Said she was ‘upset’ when she gave them and now she doesn’t know.”

“I’ll pass it along. Thanks, kid.”

“Just one more question, Chris. What the hell is going on?”

I was silent for a few moments. “Have you ever heard of a copper neutrino pulse bomb?”

“Of course.”

“CETU believes that some time today, the Maryknollers and the Episcopal Peace Fellowship intend to detonate one.”

Colleen was stunned. “Oh my God! We have to get in there! I’ll alert Allen and we’ll begin a full-scale…”

“Hang on. You flood the place and they’re going to know. We haven’t found the bomb yet and we don’t know when it’s going to go off. And there’s a complication. Hostages. Lots of them. Including…uh…two really important ones.”

“Oh no! Nicky and…and…Paul?”

“Yeah.”

“Oh God, I’m sorry, Chris. Be sure to call me the moment you need help with anything.”

“That’s why I’ve got you on speed-dial, kid. Talk to you later.”

I stared out the window some more and then glanced at my watch. It was time to get out of there.

10:00 AM – After a leisurely walk through Best Buy, I picked out a top-of-the-line laptop with a fully charged battery, a wireless modem, a few more Flash drives, several other peripherals, a carrying case for all of it and a digital camera. I paid for everything with my debit card(didn’t make a dent), got on to Watson Road, headed west and picked up Interstate 44.

I got off at the Valley Park exit, turned north, got on to a west-bound outer road and drove out to Lone Elk Park. I took my time, partly to make sure I wasn’t being followed and partly because it’s one of the lovelier parts of St. Louis County.

At the Visitor’s Center, I parked next to a Ford minivan, the only van in the lot. I picked up the laptop, got out, knocked on the van’s door and walked over to a picnic table. Dale and Greg followed a few moments later.

“Nice spot,” said Dale.

“Figured we could see them coming easier here,” I told him.

“Are those elk?” asked Greg. We turned and watched a herd of elk approach the lake about fifty yards away from us. They regarded us with brief suspicion but eventually decided that we were no threat.

“Yes they are,” I said. “Hence the park name.”

“So where are we?” asked Price.

“Off the hook for the Chittister thing. The bullets in Chittister’s car came from a Mahony-McCarrick .38.”

Dale laughed hard. “Bad gun?” asked Greg.

“Of all Christian firearms, that one’s close to the worst of the lot. A step ahead of a 9-mil Swing-Schori semi-automatic but not by much. Did you get the software?” I asked Dale.

“Yeah. You get the laptop?”

I took it out of its case and handed it to him. Dale plugged in a Flash drive, uploaded the Anchoress’s software and began testing it. As he typed, his face took on a look of increasing concern. “Chris? This isn’t going to work.”

“What do you mean?”

“The predictor just indicates in the most general of ways where the strongest point of the Nexis will be. It will probably be somewhere in this state and some time this evening. But that’s as close as I can get and I’m not 100% sure of that. As I read this, the strongest point only gets down to an area of fifty miles, give or take.”

“Won’t that be enough?” asked Greg.

“Nowhere near,” I said pensively. “I always understood that the bomb had to go off at precisely the strongest point of the Nexis. They have wiggle room in yards, not miles, If they guess wrong, it’s possible that nothing happens even though the bomb goes off within that area.”

“They must have refined the software,” speculated Dale.

“Which means we’re going to have to pay Susan Alexander a visit.”

“She won’t let you in the door, Chris,” said Greg.

“She’ll let you guys in, though.”

11:00 AM – We left the park and drove toward St. Louis, stopping in Webster Groves so I could leave the Toyota. Then the three of us took off in the van for St. Louis, parked in a parking garage near Christ Church Cathedral and walked up the street.

I took a position in a David Fischler’s across the street from the Cathedral while Greg and Dale went inside. Dale sat on a bench just outside Alexander’s office and pretended to read a Bible while Greg occupied a men’s room stall down the hall.

I speed-dialed Dale. “What’s going on?”

“Nothing. Near as I can tell, she’s in some kind of conference. This could take a while.”

I ordered two Fischler Dogs, some seasoned fries and a Diet Coke and found a seat by the window. The lunchtime crowd was starting to fill the place up.

Twenty minutes passed. Finally Dale called me. “She’s on her way out.”

“Does she have her laptop with her?”

“No.”

“Do it.”

Dale called Greg. “Let’s go.”

A minute later, Dale called me again. “We’re in. Did you see her?”

“She walked into Jeffersonian’s. Figure you’ve got two hours.”

“Won’t need ’em.” A bit later, Dale was back on the line. “Found it. They’ve definitely refined it.”

“Great. Download it and erase it from her hard drive.”

“’Ello, ’ello. What’s all this then? The schematic for a copper neutrino pulse bomb.”

“Same drill. Download it, erase it and get the hell out of there.”

Ten minutes later, Dale and Greg walked into Fischler’s, ordered themselves some lunch and joined me. Greg began playing with the software. “This is much more advanced than the Anchoress’s version,” said Greg. “It’s going to take some time.”

The three of us finished our lunches and calmly walked back toward the parking garage, got into the van and drove off, leaving the delighted attendant an enormous tip. After various turns here and there, I guided us onto Chippewa Avenue where we headed west until Chippewa Avenue became Watson Road.

12:00 PM – In Crestwood, I noticed the same rental company from which Greg had rented the van. I don’t know why, maybe it was the famed Johnson intuition, but I had Greg pull into the place and drop the van off.

As we were contemplating what to rent, I impulsively walked across Watson Road(the original Highway 66) to a car dealership, picked out a used Nissan Pathfinder and paid cash for it. I’m good that way(”With any kind of luck, temp plates will be harder to track,” I told the others). Then we headed west back toward Lone Elk Park.

Out at Lone Elk, we parked the Nissan out of sight, walked over a big hill and found another picnic table. Dale and Greg tooks turns with the software while I kept an eye out for our opponents. On the other side of the lake, I watched a van slow to a stop.

Two men got out and stared intently in our direction. Just then, Greg’s phone rang. He answered it, listened for a while, motioned for us to be quiet and turned up the volume.

“Mr. Griffith,” the distinctive voice of James Carroll said. “Just so you don’t waste your phone’s battery, all of your CETU associates are now comfortably here with us. That’s how we were able to locate you.” Griffith cringed.

“You gentlemen have something of ours that we’d like back,” Carroll continued. “So if you’ll direct your attention to the other side of this beautiful lake, you’ll see that we have two…things…of great interest to one of you that we would be willing to trade as soon as we can confirm that you no longer have copies of our property.”

Price took out his high-powered binoculars and looked across the lake just as someone else got out and stood by the van. A look of horror came over his face.

As Dale handed Greg the binoculars, his hand was violently trembling. Griffith took a quick look and instantly handed the binoculars to me. With considerable trepidation, I looked at the van to see who was standing there.

It was Nicky and Paul.

My heart and breathing both began to race as I stared at my wife and my son. I heard Dale say unconvincingly, “We could go around. We could take them.”

“They can see us right now,” Greg said quietly. “They’d know we were coming. Apart from the two on the ridge and the other two on that hill to the right, we don’t know how many of them there are or where they are. And we or they might hurt Nicky and Paul in the process.”

“But we can’t just leave them there.”

Paul was delighted by the presence of some geese several yards away while Nicky’s face was expressionless. Me, I thought very hard about giving up. Greg and Dale could finish this.

I was tired and I just wanted to be wherever my wife and my little boy were, whatever that meant.

Then I noticed something.

Nicky’s eyes.

A long blink. A short blink, a long blink and a short blink. A short blink and a long blink. A short blink, two long blinks and a short blink. She did it casually and effortlessly, over and over.

Morse Code.

Trap.

“Let’s get out of here,” I told the others.

Price stared at me. “You’re just going to leave her? Leave your son?!!

I looked across the lake at my wife and my son one more time. “Yeah,” I replied, barely able to get that word out.

“Why?”

“Because she told me to,” I said, handing Dale his binoculars. “Watch her eyes.”

Dale looked across the lake for a few moments, whispered, “I’ll be damned,” and handed the binoculars to Greg who looked at Nicky, turned to me and mouthed the word, “Wow.”

“Call Carroll back and tell him we’ll be over in a few minutes,” I told Griffith.

1:00 PM – The three of us calmly walked back to the Nissan, got in and drove off a bit faster than we should have. Greg continued to study the predictor software until his phone rang again. It was James Carroll so Griffith put it back on speaker.

“You gentleman have made a big mistake. Particularly you, Mr. Johnson. Your wife and your son will be permanently with us now. Since we intend to destroy you, she’ll be a priceless asset to us.

“We may just bring her on board right now. We have tools to do that, you know. Remember Intensive Ministerial Enrichment?”

“Jimmy?” I said. “If you guys succeed, I won’t have anything else on my plate so tracking you down and getting my revenge will be pretty much all I think about.”

“You disappoint me, Mr. Johnson. Murder doesn’t become an allegedly Christian gentleman such as yourself.”

“Who said anything about murder, Jimmy? I plan on finding you, tying you to a chair and introducing you to a special MP3 player I own.

“It’s got one song on it and it plays that song over and over. ‘Onward, Christian Soldiers.’ Great song for an anti-military guy like you. Think of it, Jimmy.

“’Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war. With the cross of Jesus going on before. Christ, the royal master, leads against the foe. Forward into battle see his banners go!’

“It’s got a lot more verses besides that one. Over and over and over and over. Oh, and it’s also got recorded sermons of John Paul II, Benedict XVI, Billy Graham, Rod Parsley, Benny Hinn, Jesse Duplantis, people like that. Over and over and over and over.

“I’m a patient man, Jimmy. I’ll keep you there for as long as it takes. So if my wife so much as breaks a nail or my son gets diaper rash, I’m coming for you.

“It’ll be a little tough for you to enjoy the ascendancy of your religion, whatever that is, what with being completely insane and all. Won’t it, Jimmy?”

Carroll’s voice was suddenly a whole lot less supercilious. “You’re bluffing.”

“Dale?” I asked. “Do I ever bluff about stuff like this?”

“Never,” Price replied. “Ever.” I could hear a gulp, some anxious breathing and Carroll stammer, “You…you’re not…you’re…not,” before he hung up.

I handed Greg his phone. “Sorry, Chris,” he said.

“Thanks. But their grandstanding just confirmed something vitally important. The bomb and the hostages are somewhere in this area.”

“How do you know that?” asked Dale.

“They found out where we were and got Nicky and Paul out to Lone Elk. All in the space of an hour or so.”

“Now what?” asked Griffith.

“Let’s find someplace safe and have a close look at that software.”

My phone rang. It was Colleen and she sounded as terrified as I’ve ever heard her. “Chris? How close are you guys?”

“We’re getting there. What’s the matter?”

“Have any of you been following the story of the Pope’s illness?”

“Slightly. Something about ’serious but not life-threatening.’ How’s he doing?”

“That’s a cover story and I don’t know how much longer it’ll keep the lid on. The Pope’s not sick, Chris. He’s been kidnapped by EPF and the Maryknollers. We just got a video confirming that he’s one of the hostages.”

Support The MCJ

Search

Links

Meta