Orbiting Dicta

Monthly Archives: April 2014

Bundy’s Blunder

Maybe it’s something about the family name, but rancher Cliven Bundy (no apparent relation to Ted) has succeeded in mesmerizing the nation (momentarily) with redneck bravado and now racism in his standoff with the federal government over unpaid rents for grazing his cattle on public (i.e., U.S. Government) land.  Sean Hannity’s riposte to Jon Stewart about Bundy’s freeloading on government range was revealing – “cows eating free government grass” — sounds like food stamps for cattle to me.  A pity, then, that Hannity doesn’t believe in food stamps for the poor.  Poor people, that is.  People that were allegedly, in Cliven Bundy’s not-so-well-chosen words, “better off as slaves picking cotton.”

The cattle stampede of formerly-ardent Republican fans away from Bundy is all-too-revealing.  Even Hannity found Bundy’s remarks “beyond despicable… beyond ignorant.”  Not the first time you bet on the wrong horse, Sean.  Or in this case, jackass.


Gn 1:1,26-31a/ Gn 22:1-18, 9a,10-13, 15-18/
Ex 14:15–15:1/ Is 55:1-11/ Rom 6:3-11/ Mt 28:1-10

In Matthew’s gospel, there are two earthquakes – the first when Jesus dies on the cross, and the second when he is raised from the dead. My students sometimes wonder, were there really two earthquakes?  Did the veil of the Temple really tear in half? Or is this Matthew’s way of underscoring the significance of the death and resurrection of Jesus?  When pressed for an opinion, I reply that in the seismology of faith, it seems to me that there is only one earthquake, and it’s still going on.  We may never get the full data on the tectonic disturbances of the third decade of the first century, but that is irrelevant.  The impact of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection remade the world and is still doing it.

Some people will not notice, and many never have.  This year, Easter Sunday falls on the commemoration of Four Twenty, a made-up commemoration going back to the late 70s out in California when 4/20 was the police code for a marijuana bust.  With the legalization of canabis in Colorado and other places, April 20 is now Weed Day, and potheads will celebrate by getting high.  If you smell smoke, by the way, don’t panic.  It’s just incense.

People celebrate Easter itself in various ways – I’m not sure whether there will be a parade on 5th Avenue in New York, but in many places children will roll colored eggs on sunny lawns even, sometimes, with their noses, and there will be brunches and basketball games, and early in the morning some sunrise ceremonies on beaches and in forests.  Exhausted shop clerks may sleep in, other will be forced to work in order to keep their jobs. Firemen, the police, new resident doctors and nurses and emergency workers will be on duty.

Some people, more than usual this year, will be in mourning.  We, too, grieve with the families and friends of the school children in Orland, California, and Incheon, South Korea.  We sorrow at the deaths of the Sherpa guides on the slope of Mt. Everest on Thursday and those killed in Syria and Ukraine.  A score of young people have been shot dead on the streets of Chicago. And you will surely recall how just a week ago, on Palm Sunday afternoon, Dr. William Corporon and his grandson Reat Underwood, an Eagle Scout, were shot dead in a parking lot at a Jewish Community Center in Overland Park, Kansas, allegedly by a man who was a white supremicist, racist, and former Ku Klux Klan leader.  It was the very eve of Passover.  His victims were not Jewish, however, but Methodists.  A short time later, the same man is accused of shooting to death an occupational therapist, Terri LaManno, who worked with blind babies at the Children’s Center for the Visually Impaired, when she came to visit her mother at the Village Shalom Retirement Center.  LaManno was a Catholic. It has not escaped attention that these three Christians very really gave their lives for their friends.  Their Jewish friends.

It is the kind of Interfaith conversation that we certainly do not want, but perhaps in some respects the world needs.  It needs to be reminded that we are all children of one God, the same God, created in God’s image and likeness, neither Jew nor Gentile, neither male nor female, neither slave nor free, but all — all children of One God, sisters and brothers.

It requires faith to believe that the Resurrection of Jesus has overcome the force of sin and broken the bonds of death, because we don’t see it in the moment, perhaps not ever.  But it is not a false belief for all that.  We are reminded in the Epistle to the Hebrews that “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” And at the very beginning of the First Letter of Peter, itself most likely a baptismal document, we are told “By [God’s] great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”

The author concludes, “In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith– being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire– may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
For “Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy,  for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” [1 Pet 1:3-9]

As Easter Christians we believe that in the death and resurrection of Jesus, the power of sin and evil has been broken, definitively so, and that the vast energy of life has been released so that we may take up again the great task entrusted to us at the dawn of days, to be stewards of creation, and now, in these final days as the gospels have it, heralds of the good news of salvation.  For Christ is risen.  Let us rejoice and be glad.


In Matthew’s gospel, there are two earthquakes – the first when Jesus dies on the cross, and the second when he is raised from the dead. My students sometimes wonder, were there really two earthquakes?  Did the veil of the Temple really tear in half? Or is this Matthew’s way of underscoring the significance of the death and resurrection of Jesus?


Bishop-bashing has become all the rage now that the Bishop of Rome (AKA the Pope) has opted in favor of a simpler life style.  He drives his own modest car and sits on a large chair rather than a throne, although he has not dismissed the Swiss Guard or sold off any art works yet.  The recent “outrage” that greeted Archbishop Wilton Gregory’s new $2.2 million home in Atlanta is the latest item added to the list of episcopal improprieties zealously kept by the mass media.

While the residence seems excessive by US standards in some respects, beating up Gregory seems to be a bridge too far.  Yes, Archbishop Gregory’s new house was expensive and the decision to build it with a bequest from Margaret Mitchel’s estate was a blunder, although it represents a very far cry from the $43 million lavished on remodeling his residence by Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst of Limburg, Germany, that got him demoted by the pope.

According to Zillow.com, the medium home value index of the suburb of Chicago where I live is $323,200.  In Chicago, it’s $187,200.  In River Forest, the suburb where my university is located, that value climbs to $496,300 and big homes still sell for well over a million dollars.  The average listing price of a home in Kenilworth, a more affluent suburb north of Chicago, is currently about $2,304,971 – a tad higher than Archbishop Gregory’s new house.  In Atlanta itself, the home value index is currently $145,300, with a median sale price of $231,465.  Big houses go for a lot more.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Bears coach Marc Trestman’s six-bedroom Winnetka mansion is on the market for $3.5 million, half a million more than the $2.94 million he bought it for a few months ago.  Although not quite as big as Gregory’s mansion, it boasts “6 1/2 baths, a cherry wood library, a third-floor loft, and a lower level with a fully equipped sport court, a movie theater and a wine cellar. The house sits on a one-third-acre lot.” [http://www.chicagotribune.com/classified/realestate/transactions/ct-marc-trestman-elite-street–20140320,0,5107869.story]  There was no mention of a panic room, however, and Bears coaches probably need one more than archbishops do. The late great chef Charlie Trotter’s mansion lists for $2.48 million, by the way.  I doubt if any bishops seem interested in buying it at the moment.

The trend, if such it be, toward a simpler, more “impoverished” lifestyle among the episcopates is surely a welcome development, since the average yearly income of the members of the Church (worldwide it’s about $1,000 per annum) is astronomically less than what a mansion like Trestman’s or even Gregory’s costs to operate for just a few hours.  Jesus said that, unlike foxes and birds, he had nowhere at all to lay his head.  Not that bishops should be chucked out onto the street, but how many bedrooms (and panic rooms) do they really need?

Archbishop Gregory’s decision to sell the house and give the money to the poor is a good one.  Wonder where he got that idea?