Visits

Friday, June 22, 2018

Yeshoosh

Religion in Bali is more than a Sunday sort of thing. Religion and culture are inextricably interwoven, such that in many ways the Balinese are enacting their religion on a daily basis and generally in a cooperative, communal setting. Most people here know little about any other religion, tough they are more likely to know at least some things about Islam rather than about Christianity, given that Indonesia itself is a Muslim majority country, with 87 percent of the citizens identifying themselves as Muslim. Eight-eight percent of the population in Bali, on the other hand, is Hindu. 

It struck my friend, Adi, as odd, therefore, when an American showed up yesterday at the Starbucks where he works and kept talking about "Yeshoosh" and how Adi must turn away from Hinduism and follow Yeshoosh. 

After work, Adi stopped by my house, wanting to know from another American why this guy was talking so much about Yeshoosh.

"Jesus." 

"Ya, Yeshoosh." 

Well, it turns out, predictably enough, that the American fellow is a Jehovah's Witness. These folks occasionally show up on the island as part of a 'mission' trip--you know, to bring the truth to a people in darkness (without, however, knowing anything about Hinduism or the Balinese people and their culture and customs). Often enough, they end up offending people here--interrupting ceremonies, passing out leaflets (to people who mostly cannot speak English), and so on. I reckon they figure they're going to get bonus points in heaven for spreading the good news. They are, after all, Jehovah's "witnesses". 

But of course, Adi has no idea what the man is talking about. Nor does the man, unfortunately. 

I can only advise Adi not to worry about it. 

"I very love him," Adi says (by which he means that he doesn't mind talking to this person), "but I just don't know why he is always talking so much Yeshoosh. You are American too, but not always talking Yeshoosh." 

"Does he speak Indonesian?" I asked. 

"No." 

Well, I'm not sure where I would begin. Perhaps a familiarity with Adi's beliefs would be a good point? A  passing knowledge of Hinduism and Balinese culture? An effort to communicate in the native language? 

Ya think? 

Thursday, June 21, 2018

America


Someone once wrote that the greatest argument against Christianity is Christians. Or something very like that. And, particularly in this day’s religious/political climate, one cannot help but feel sympathetic toward the sentiment. I know of no better reason to turn away from Christianity than to take a look at many of those who call themselves Christian and at the institutions and ideas they have supplanted in the place of the true faith, causing it to now loudly proclaim what the faith does not, and never did declare. I’m talking about the religious right, the so-called moral majority, the Evangelicals—or rather, that politically conservative, intolerant, uncharitable, self-interested, racist, sexist, homophobic, Islamophobic network that has absconded with the formerly honorable name and turned it into something that seems foul on the tongue. I’m talking about those who equate Donald Trump with Jesus Christ and hail the man as the appointed of God. I’m talking about the charismatics and the TV preachers who pander to superstition and ignorance, who invent fairytales and call them prophesies, who sell the prosperity gospel to a needy and naïve flock and collect the proceeds in plain sight, and ask for more.

Yes, I can see how these things, and more, would constitute a giant flashing neon advertisement against Christianity. Who after all, Christian or non-Christian, knowing the beauty and mildness of love, would want to associate himself with such unlovely company?

Noted Christian apologist and author Ravi Zacharias writes that the one question that has haunted him the most through his ministry was asked by a Hindu acquaintance: “If this conversion you speak of is truly supernatural, then why is it not more evident in the lives of so many Christians that I know?” In other words, a God who is said to transform should produce people with transformed lives. Similarly, Nietzsche said “I might believe in the Redeemer if his followers looked more redeemed”.

Indeed.

When asked ‘Are you a Christian?, one can longer respond with a simple ‘Yes’ answer. Or at least I cannot. One must first determine what is meant by Christian, which in today’s society, both at home and abroad, will probably mean that you have been pegged as one of those unkind, judgmental sorts of people who have a problem with everybody other than themselves. So, it requires a bit of a theology lesson from the outset, such that you can explain that the Christianity to which you have been called has nothing whatever to do with the profoundly unpleasant doctrine of prejudice, exclusion and intolerance that you are hearing from those who would seem to represent the faith in Protestant America—folks like Franklin Graham and Jerry Falwell and Joel Osteen and Jesse Duplantis and all their ilk. In other words, Christianity has to do with Christ, who has nothing, really, to do with many of those who are calling themselves his followers these days.

We might well say the same thing about America and Americans in our time—that is, that the most un-American thing about America is the Americans themselves. The nation seems to have wandered far astray from its founding principles and affections and become quite the obverse of what it was intended to be. Rather than a nation committed to liberty, of our own and for others, and to a cooperative relationship with likeminded nations of the world, we have become divisive and untrustworthy, the me-first nation, withdrawing from our natural role in cooperative concerns such as global warming and universal human rights.

As with religion, I must now explain what kind of American I am and what kind I am not. I must explain that what is being called America on many tongues is not America at all—not as I have known it for the last 64 years. It is almost as if people in foreign countries (such as the one I live in) know more about what America is supposed to represent than Americans themselves know any longer. 
And that is pretty sad. 

Monday, June 18, 2018

Photo Finish

My ex-wife and I trade photos back and forth via i-Phone message. She sends me a photo of a palace in Abu-Dhabi. I send her a photo of the big fat brown dog eating a cookie. She sends a photo from Paris. I send a photo of a cow. Different lives much? But although I'm certain that she would not exchange her experience for mine, I am just as sure that I would not exchange mine for hers. Yes, I will take the dog and the cow over the palace and the Eiffel Tower. Maybe that's why we're divorced? Lol. The ramshackle shack in the pasture appeals to me. The luxurious hotel with its groomed beachfront does not. Sate smoked on a sidewalk grill is to my taste, squid on a silver platter at the price of silver is not. Ambience is in the breeze, aromas, voices, passing colors, not in sophisticated décor and crystal glasses. Each to his own, and may all be happy.  

The Watcher

I had mentioned in a previous post my proclivity for falling asleep in the morning after waking up from a full night's sleep, but I did not mention the strange appearance in my pre-waking dream of the young Indonesian man who wakes me. I have no idea who this man is--aged somewhere in his 20's, I'd say, and perfectly distinct in his appearance, as if he were actually standing beside he bed. This has happened on several occasions now. He says my name and I awake, quickly realizing that, as real as he had seemed to be, no one is really there. I always think, Who is this? Do I know him? He looks somehow familiar, and yet I cannot connect him with anyone I know. Why is it this young man who awakens me? Wouldn't it be preferable to be awakened by a beautiful young woman, even if only a part of a dream? I can see this young man even now, in my mind's eye. But who is he? Weird, right? And why is he awakening me, anyway? 

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Romans 13

What a pity it is that at this late time in history we should find our government misusing a verse from the Bible in order to try to justify tearing children from the arms of their parents at our border. The apostle Paul himself, who is quoted by Attorney General Jeff Sessions from Romans 13, would be horrified at the evil twisting of his words. Nor is this the first time this particular verse has been misappropriated by the powers in order to justify evil. It was used in the past by American slave holders. It was used in Germany by the Nazis. 

How anyone (with a brain) can imagine that Paul was encouraging  his followers to be obedient to authority even when the authority runs clearly against the message of Christ is a mystery in itself. Paul himself stood starkly in conflict with the law, both of the Jews and of the Romans. Time and again, he was imprisoned, beaten, and ultimately he was beheaded under the authority of the Roman empire. 

So what was Paul really saying? Basically, merely to do good--because in doing good, one has done what is right and proper. On the other hand, it is clear that doing the wrong  thing cannot be the right thing. It's a no-brainer. 

Whenever one comes across a verse that seems at odds with the whole of scripture, or at odds with the established theology of a particular writer (such as Paul), one needs to look more closely in order to see what he is missing. What is the context? What event or situation is being addressed? Who is the writer talking to, and about what? Forcing the verse in where it doesn't fit just won't work. 

Move just a little further into Romans 13, and you find the following: "Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law … Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is  the fulfillment of the law".  Love, therefore, is the obedience that is ultimately being spoken of. 

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Bye-Bye

I see that my 'other blog', on Wordpress (My Practical Paradise) is about to expire. To be honest, I was never able to develop a 'feeling' for the blog, nor was I able to see the oft-celebrated superiority of Wordpress over BlogSpot--especially at my level of competence (which is fairly close to zero, and going down). I do believe that there are those who are making money from the many avenues available for Wordpress, but it seemed to me from the start that one's concern would need to be primarily focused on many money rather than on writing about one's experience. It has always felt manipulative and mercenary to me. Aside from that, one has to pay for access to the aforementioned avenues, and thus tends to feel pressed to recoup his investment. In other words, as far as I'm concerned, it's BS. 

So anyway, I'm gonna let the WP blog lapse. I never received so much as a single comment on the blog, nor a single penny from it. Moreover, often enough, I simply repeated the things I had already written in Jim Dandy. 

One additional point is that part of the reason for creating this blog to begin with was for it to be a cooperative effort with my wife, wherein she would take photographs and I would write text for 'our world travels'. As it turned out, however, she traveled right out of the marriage with another guy who could actually afford to send her traveling around the world. So there you have it. 

Tonsil

I seem to have developed a "normal" illness over the past few days--namely, a sore tonsil. Normal is what I call anything not associated with MS. Throughout my life, for as long as I can remember, I have had problems with my tonsils, a pain that flares up, persists a while, then goes away, sometimes with the help of antibiotics. This will often seem to be associated with an unstable weather pattern, a changing from warm to cold and back to warm again. My ears, throat, nasal passages, sinuses become irritated by this and then the irritation centers in a tonsil. Of course, normal pain is no more pleasant than abnormal pain, and yet it comes these days with an odd sort of comforting side, to the extent that this, after all, is common, explicable, expected rather than weird, unreasonable and wholly inappropriate. It also has a predictable resolution, whereas where MS problems are headed is anyo