Jesus the Blogging Songwriter

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We’re just freaks in love
Saints above
Shine on our sweet life
Happy is the union
Of fools and freaks alike

And fearless are the idiots
Among the hawks and doves
We’re on the outside looking in
A couple of freaks in love

Freaks in Love, lyrics by B. Taupin
© 2004 HST Management Ltd./Rouge Booze, Inc

Have you read something that makes you think: “how can anyone be that stupid?”  What am I saying?   Of course you have if you read stuff on the Internet!  The Internet allows anybody who is even mildly literate to post anything their dinosaur brain can formulate into letters and words.  Continue reading

Answers in the Sky

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You don’t need a prayer
And there’s no price to ask why
Sometimes you’ll find an answer in the sky
Answer in the Sky, lyrics by B. Taupin
(c) 2004 HST Management Ltd./Rouge Booze, Inc.

I am embarrassed to admit that before Saturday, I had never heard of Richard Dawkins and had no idea who he was.  No, not Richard Dawson, the actor from Hogan’s Heroes and Family Feud.  That’s a different guy, and I think he’s dead.

Richard Dawkins is still very much alive, although if the amount and ferocity of hate mail he receives is any indication of his chances for longevity, I’d recommend that he update his will sooner rather than later.

You’ve never heard of him either?  Good, I’m not the only one.  So, who is he?  According to Wikipedia (the oxymoron of accurate information), he’s an ethologist, evolutionary biologist and writer.  He’s also an outspoken atheist.

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Richard Dawkins is still alive.

When I tried to read up about him on  Wikipedia, I got very confused.  Here’s an example of what I mean:

In 1982, he introduced into evolutionary biology the influential concept that the phenotypic effects of a gene are not necessarily limited to an organism’s body, but can stretch far into the environment, including the bodies of other organisms.

I had no idea what “phenotype” meant, so I followed that link.  But the explanation of phenotype used more words I did not know, so I had to follow those links, which lead me to more links and so on and so on.  But none of the articles explained him in Plain English.

I know I’m smart, but as a graduate of W&M, I have no illusions about my intelligence. Most of the people I went to school with there were a lot smarter than me.  As a result of that humbling experience, when I enter a room, I never assume I’m the smartest person there.  I wait for other people to start talking before I make up my mind.  As Lincoln said:

Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.

Fools usually have no problem self-identifying. Of course, I’m probably safe in saying I’m smarter than Kim Kardashian, but considering she’s rich and famous and I’m not, she must have something going for her.  It’s probably her booty, not her brains.

The point is, I did not understand a lot of the evolutionary biology stuff.  No matter, it was his stance on religion that got my attention.  Although he is a scientist, in 2006 he published a book called The God Delusion, in which he wrote that God does not exist, and religious faith is a delusion—”a fixed false belief”.

I understand why he thinks that God does not exist.  According to Dawkins, God’s existence cannot be proven by scientific methods. If science cannot prove that God exists, then God does not exist.

At the same time, science has not disproven God’s existence either.  That’s why a belief in God relies on faith. One of the definitions of the word faith is “a belief not based on proof.” There you go. One has to have faith that God is real.

So I get the part about him saying God does not exist. What I don’t understand is why he cares so much that people believe in God. I kept reading more articles about him, but none of them answered my question. Wikipedia certainly didn’t help.

I went on Youtube and found some fascinating interviews in which he attempts to explain why he is so adamant that people stop believing in God. The best interview I found was here:

Dawkins says religion is bad because it has been used to justify wars over time. He says that dogmatic beliefs can be pernicious beliefs that drive people to do awful things. True. Can’t argue with that.

But what about people like me, who aren’t fanatics? I’m not going to join a terrorists cell and try to blow up a French newspaper I’ve never heard of or a café full of Norwegians. Why would I do that? I have nothing against Norwegians. Most of them are probably perfectly nice people. I wonder how many of them believe in God?

Why does it bother him so much that people like me, who believe in science and evolution, also believe in a divine being?

Dawkins says he’s against religion because it “teaches us to be satisfied with not understanding the world.” That’s not true for everyone. I think a lot of scientists who believe in God would say he’s wrong about that.

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Do I believe that the world was created in seven days and is only 10,000 years old? No. The Bible was not written by God. It was written by men inspired by their beliefs in God. The Bible is rooted in the times in which it was written. Science did not exist then, so the authors provided answers as best they could. One has to cull through the historical stuff, pick out the moral code and leave the rest behind.

And consider this. According to some sources, more than half the people in the world believe in God. If religion is so off the mark, how did it get such a stronghold on the world? My dad used to say “50 million Frenchmen can’t be wrong.” Are we all  delusional? Dawkins would say yes.

Even if Dawkins is right about God, however, he seems to be conveniently ignoring a facet of human nature that science will not change. People are looking for something to believe in, something bigger than themselves. Science as a belief, well it just doesn’t cut the mustard. Science doesn’t have angels and water that turns into wine. Just like many of us would like to believe in ghosts, we’d like to think miracles are possible too.

When Jon Stewart interviewed Dawkins on the Daily Show, they discussed the question of how the universe got started. Dawkins said not to think about it as a defined starting line.  He said that some organism started it all.  So Stewart asks:  “where did that organism come from?”  Dawkins did not answer this question.

After their discussion, Stewart summed the topic up nicely:

This is so cool to think about. Do you want to get high later?

At the end of the day, what’s wrong with hedging one’s bets? The way I look at it is this. If I believe in God and it turns out there is no God, then when I die, poof! I’m gone. But what have I lost in the meantime? Nothing.

But if there is a God and I don’t believe, then I could be in trouble when I get to the pearly gates, assuming I even get that far.

Finally, if there is a God and I do believe, then I’m golden.

So it makes sense to me to believe. So sue me. If it makes me a better person, and I think it does, then again I ask, why does Richard Dawkins care so much that I believe in God?

Have Mercy on the Criminals

Have mercy on the criminal
 Who is running from the law
 Are you blind to the winds of change
 Don’t you hear him any more
“Have Mercy on the Criminal”, lyrics by Bernie Taupin
© 1972 Dick James Music Limited
 

On Sunday, Billy and I went to visit his mom, who lives in South Alexandria, Virginia.  As we entered her neighborhood, I noticed yellow ribbons tied around trees and mailbox posts.  On the corner, someone had put a big sign, like the ones used outside of stores, which read “Hannah you are in our thoughts and prayers.”

It turned out that Hannah’s family lives just one block over from Billy’s mother.  The trip to and from Alexandria was sobering indeed.
  Continue reading

Gay Marriage — Why all the fuss?

Elton John, David Furnish

Elton John and David Furnish–why shouldn’t they be allowed to get married?

I believe in love, it’s all we got
Love has no boundaries, costs nothing to touch
Churches and dictators, politics and papers
Everything crumbles sooner or later
But love, I believe in love
“Believe,” lyrics by Bernie Taupin
(c) 1995 William A. Bong Limited

With the recent news from the U.S. Supreme Court about gay marriage,  the religious right has come out in full force to condemn it.  

I don’t understand what all the fuss is about.  If people would just listen to me, we could put this issue to bed once and for all. 

Christians who oppose gay marriage often quote scripture from the Bible in support of their position.  Simply put, it “offends God”:

 Whenever one violates the natural moral order established by God, one sins and offends God. Same-sex “marriage” does just this. Accordingly, anyone who professes to love God must be opposed to it.

Marriage is not the creature of any State. Rather, it was established by God in Paradise for our first parents, Adam and Eve. As we read in the Book of Genesis: “God created man in His image; in the Divine image he created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them, saying: ‘Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it.’” (Gen. 1:28-29)– Excerpt from “10 Reasons why Homosexual Marriage is Harmful and Must be opposed.”

Ok then, if you are going to follow—and seek to enforce– the Bible’s commands, then you have to follow all of the Bible’s commands.  You don’t get to pick and choose the ones you want to enforce, and ignore the ones you would rather weren’t in the Bible.

Therefore, if gay marriage “violates the natural moral order established by God,” then so does divorce:

By law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law of marriage. So then, if she marries another while her husband is still alive, she is called an adulteress.  Romans 7:2-3

Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.  Luke 16:18

How many of the people who are against gay marriage are also against divorce?  An even better question—how many of them ARE divorced?   Why is divorce ok but gay marriage is not?

Here’s my take on all of this.  The Bible must be read in the context of its times, economic, social and scientific.  It was written before the age of scientific discovery.  So to explain things like how the world got started, we have the story in Genesis.  Was the earth really created in six days and then on the seventh God rested? Really?  If God is all powerful, why did he need a day of rest anyway?   

The Bible is full of parables, allegories and unscientific information that’s just plain wrong.   I don’t think the Bible was ever meant to be a scientific treatise.  Even Pope Francis agrees with this.   He recently declared that evolution and the Big Bang theory are right and that God is not magician with a magic wand.  Too bad fundamentalist Christians don’t listen to the Pope. 

I can’t reconcile everything that’s in the Bible.  I’m not a biblical scholar.  But I am a Christian.  As a Christian, I disagree vehemently that “anyone who loves God” must oppose gay marriage.  I think it’s just the opposite.  Anyone who loves God must not condemn gay marriage.

It’s the fundamental message that Jesus brought to the world that’s important, and that message is love, tolerance and respect for others:  This is my command: Love each other.  John 15:17.

That message has not changed.  It remains as relevant today as it did back when the Bible was written.  Maybe even more relevant.

The bottom line for me is this:  If (and that is a big, qualified If) gay marriage offends God,  then it is up to God, and only God, to judge. 

Do not judge, and you will not be judged.  Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned.  Forgive, and you will be forgiven.  Luke 6:37

Even Jesus said he was not the one to judge.

As for the person who hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge him.  For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it.  John 12:47

The rest of us should stop condemning others and endeavor to love even those with whom we don’t agree.  In fact, those are the most important people to love and tolerate.  As Jesus said, it’s easy to love your friends.  But a true Christian must strive for more than that.

If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? . . but love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting anything back. Luke 6:32, 35

I guess I should take a page out of my own book and forgive those who trespassed against me, shouldn’t I?  I’m trying, I really am.

GOD HATES THE CONSTITUTION 

They stand in front of churches
They stand in front of crowds
They carry signs that tell us
God’s message from the clouds

God hates the constitution
He wants to pray in schools
The godly have solutions
The rest of us are fools

I guess they have a private line
Directly to the Lord
But the line must have some static
Perhaps a faulty mother board?

When I read the Bible
The message there is love
And tolerance for everyone–
That’s the dispatch from above

And if it is a sin
Whatever they decry
Jesus said, before you judge
Take that log out of your eye.

(c) 2014 Renata Manzo

 

Things My Parents Never Taught Me


My dad was crazy (turns out my mother is too), but I am grateful for a few things they never taught me. 
Number 1:  because my dad grew up in a Jewish neighborhood in Hartford (he went to high school with Normal Lear and Charles Nelson Reilly, remember them?) my dad never taught me to be anti-Semitic.  He once told me that the reason so many Jews owned businesses was because no one would hire them.   He never really explained why that was so, just that it was wrong. Not the part about them owning their own businesses, the part about no one hiring them. 
I didn’t even know about anti-semiticism until I was 12 and went to see the movie Fiddler on the Roof.   We were living in L.A. at the time and my Aunt Elaine and Uncle Stan took my sister and me to see it.  Then we spent the night with them. 
I was so upset about the movie could not sleep.  I sobbed the entire night.  I could not understand why the Russians were so mean to these people.  What had they done to deserve it?      
When I was very young, my dad was a professional opera singer.  He sang in churches and synagogues.  The Christians sometimes didn’t want to pay him; they expected him to sing for “the love of God.”  My dad would tell them that the love of God didn’t put food on the table.  The Jews would pay him, however, even though they were not supposed to touch money on Shabbos.  Naturally, he preferred to sing in the synagogues.  This may explain why my parents never sent us kids to church.  It also explains why I thought bagels were a type of Italian food. 
                                        
Number 2:  my parents never taught me to be racist.  We never talked about this; it was a given.  People were just people.  Before I was born and my brother Guido was very little, a neighbor came over for a visit.  His name was Mr. Brown.
“Mr. Bwoun is bwoun all over!”  Guido exclaimed. 
My mom thought it was hilarious.
I grew up on military bases and went to the schools on post.  Truman had desegregated the armed forces in 1948, so the schools on post were integrated.    I didn’t know anything about busing or “separate but equal” or any other such nonsense.   I did learn about busing in 1972, however, when we moved to Inglewood, California.  We were bused to a school in Ladera Heights, which was a much better part of town.  So for me, busing was a good thing.
My best friend when I was ten was a girl named Sheryl Little.  Her dad was not in the military, but they lived nearby.  Her mother was my Girl Scout leader.   I spent a lot of time at Sheryl’s house.  She had a huge poster of Malcolm X on her wall and she told me he was her uncle.  She also told me he had been murdered by a jealous husband.   My mother insisted that Sheryl was wrong and that Malcolm X was not her uncle, but I found out it was true when I read his autobiography in high school.  Why did my mother lie?  Was she trying to protect me?  Sheryl’s story about how her uncle had died was not the truth either, so I guess her parents tried to protect her too.    
Number 3:  my parents never taught me to be homophobic.  My Uncle Stan came out of the closet after my Aunt Elaine died, and no one in the family thought anything about it.  Apparently they were not surprised.
Remember the “don’t ask don’t tell” debate in the military?  My dad and I watched a piece about it on 60 Minutes.  Afterwards he said:  “Why is this such a big deal?  If the guys are doing their jobs, leave them alone!”
Number 4:  finally, my parents never taught me to be a prude about sex.  (My husband is especially grateful for this one.)   In fact, my parents never taught me about sex or even talked about it.  The only dirty joke I ever heard my dad tell was this:  Two guys are in a bar and one says to the other, “Is that Hortense over there?”  “No,” says the second guy, “she looks pretty calm to me.”  It took me years to figure it out.     
My parents never said sex was dirty, or even that I was supposed to wait until I got married.   When I was in elementary school during the hippie era I wrote “make love, not war” all over my notebook.  I really had no idea what it meant.  My parents never said a thing.   They probably knew better than to make a big deal about it because they knew I didn’t know what it meant.  If only parents today would adopt that attitude instead of getting so upset over every little thing that might hint at sexuality.  No wonder the Europeans think Americans are uptight about sex. 
My mother once confided that she and my dad had sex before they were married.  This would have been in the mid 1950’s when birth control was not easily available.  
“What did you use for birth control?” I asked.
“We prayed,” she answered. 

Little Boxes on the Hillside


“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”   Luke 18:16, NIV
The years between ages 11 and 22 were rough.  Fortunately, I had some help from the man upstairs.
As I mentioned in “Christmas 1971,” we moved from Maryland to California right after Christmas.  We moved in with my grandmother and my Aunt Cecelia in Inglewood.  Yes, that Inglewood, where “all the rappers come from” according to one of my friends.
We stayed there for eight months.  All five of us hated L.A.   I missed trees.  In L.A., instead of trees in the highway median strips, the concrete was painted green.
In August we moved back to Maryland.  My dad bought a house in Odenton in a small neighborhood of split level homes that all looked exactly the same.  (“Little boxes on the hillside, little boxes made of ticky tacky . . .”)
I started at a new school (junior high school, no less) where I did not know anyone.  This didn’t bother me as I was used to that.  I didn’t have any of my school records, however, so I had to take a placement test.
After I took the test, I sat in the guidance counselor’s office to wait for the results.   This was back when computers took up an entire room, so I’m sure the test was graded by hand.  It took all afternoon.
There was another girl my age waiting also.  We started talking and discovered we had a lot in common.  We were both military kids.  She had five kids in her family; I had four.  We talked all afternoon.  Twenty minutes before the end of the day, I got my schedule and went to class.  Ten minutes later, Elaine showed up.  We were close friends from that day on.
Elaine’s family practically adopted me.  Did they know what I was going through? I never told them. Her mother probably guessed although she never said anything to me.  Back then people did not interfere with the way other parents raised their children.
 Instead, I spent most weekends at her house.  Her house was a little box that looked exactly like mine but it had an entirely different vibe because of the marvelous people who lived in it.  They even took me on vacation with them.  It was the first vacation that did not involve staying with relatives.  Her parents rented a house on Lake Owasco in the Finger Lake region of New York. We drove up there in her family’s cavernous yellow station wagon, the kind with the “way back” seat.  It was the best vacation I had ever had.  I remember dreading the ride home because it meant I had to go home.
Elaine’s father was a military chaplain.  Her mother was one of the sweetest, most generous people I have ever met.  Both of Elaine’s parents were Christians in the purest sense of the world.   Naturally they took me to church with them.
I had been to Sunday school a few times before that, but never to church.  My parents were both ex-Catholics who despised the church.   My mother went to a Catholic boarding school as a child, where the nuns tried to make her drink tomato (pronounced “toe-mah-toe”) juice because they thought she was puny and needed building up.  How tomato juice was supposed to do that, I have no idea.
My dad was a different story.  He did go to church with his second wife Doris, but he went in order to drum up business when he sold life insurance.  He later became a Buddhist to please his fourth wife.  He was religious when it suited him.
I found Christ through my friendship with Elaine and her family.  There were two things that got me through my childhood—school and Christ.  I went to school to get away from the house and to get support.  Jesus gave me support of a different kind.  I finished school a long time ago, but I still lean on Jesus.
Was it a coincidence that Elaine, who was the same age as me, showed up at the same school on the same day and without her school records?   I don’t think so.  God put her and her family in my path to help me manage during those painful years.
It’s funny how the things we learn as children stay with us through adulthood, both good and bad.  Because I was saved so young, my faith has never wavered.
You know the coolest thing about faith?  It goes with you wherever you go.  You don’t have to remember to pack it because it’s already inside you.  You can gain or lose weight and it stays intact.  Get married, get divorced, have a baby, become a helicopter pilot, lose your job, whatever.  It’s there.  I pray every day for guidance and support as I work through this crisis.
I’ve lost touch with Elaine.  Both her parents are dead now.  I miss them all.  Her family gave me the best gift—the gift of faith.