Richest Americans

Wealthiest 400 Americans Now Worth Record $2.3 Trillion

How much did they collectively pay in taxes last year?
To those who are given much, much is required…

$1 Trillion in taxes sounds reasonable to me, and would help balance the budget a lot better.

And don’t tell me how hard it it would be for them to survive  on $1.3 Trillion in net worth.

If I can be ordered by the government to be limited to $2,000 in net worth, the rich can be ordered to be limited to half of what they have. Skip some caviar already.

Obscene. $2.3 trillion in the hands of 400 people while billions lay dying in abject poverty.
A list of shame. No one human needs even the millions of the 400th person.
Every penny they have over what they need…you can secure your future with under $1 million. Anything over that is greed, pure and simple, and those addicted to greed should be taxed into a more moral state of being.

Sad, sad, sad….

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Dear American Culture: I Quit!

Dear American Culture: I Quit!.Awesome inditement of American trashy, tabloid, reality show culture, and it’s effects on media with good solid meaningful writing…

 

So true, so true…even my beloved History channel is less and less good stuff….

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Bi-Vocational Clergy?! Nothing New Here!

I read, with interest, the following story in The Atlantic…click here to read.

“Higher Calling Lower Wages, The Vanishing Of The Middle Class Clergy”
By David R. Wheeler

(This commentary also appeared as a comment at my Facebook Group, Not All Catholics Are Roman…But All Catholics Are One)

Protestants and Evangelicals are learning what Independent, Gnostic, Celtic, Old, and even some Orthodox clergy and denominations have known for a long, long time. There are going to be denominations, dioceses, and even parishes/communities that literally will be so big and so complex that a full time clergy, being paid a decent living wage that allows them to pay off their debt, is required. Those denominations in that situation DO have to engage the entire denomination in a discussion of priorities. What is more important? To buy the (admittedly cheap forclosed) Crystal Cathedral in the next city over, or to make sure your Director of Diocesan Clergy has not just his M. Div., but his MBA with a minor in enough social work classes to be able to help the pastors below him manage parishes AND catch the subtle signs a certain clergy is going waaay off the path, perhaps even into pedophilia?!

For denominations large or small, growing or shrinking….this is to me one of the more important points: What drives your decisions on clergy education requirements and pay? Who are you listening to more….Ceasar and money, or the theologians of your faith? How can your denomination or parish claim to posses truth, morals, and leadership if the bar to be clergy is so high and expensive, but the pay so low, that your pastor must default on his or her student debt?

Another quote I think is very important to this discussion: “One example of a deliberately bi-vocational church is Love Chapel Hill in North Carolina, where five co-pastors share the workload of the church and work other jobs on the side.” Now this, I am sure is going to sound very familiar to a good number of non-Utrechtian Old Catholics, independent Catholics, and other small Catholic denominations.  It plays right into an issue we have for years had debates about here on this group – how many clergy is too many clergy?

A story: Last year, as you veterans know, Brian and I went to the very informal ISM Family Reunion in the Asheville, NC area. We met and became friends there with Bishop Ron Shelton, and his Celtic Apostolic Church (Ron, correct me and forgive me if I got that wrong…I am sick in bed today with just myself and a tablet while they boys are at flag football, so your card is far out of reach).

We met Rev. Gerry, an older woman who, as Pastor, immediately knew what was needed, where things were, and who to send fetching when Brian and I, after more drama than you can imagine, finally arrived that Sunday. You could stand next to this woman and just KNOW she could command anything that community might deal with, from a fued amoung families planning a wedding to a terrorist strike causing a plane crash in the parking lot. Ron knows it to, and merely stayed out of her way.  Everything I later learned about her from folks like Phil Biesi confirmed that impression, and also clued me in that she can hold her own in a good many theological discussions, and has other duties.

I met the young seminarian, and then with my MS addled brain, forgot her name. A young mother with small children, We shared smiles and a few words, but enough that I know if in the future my daughter, who lives about 2 hours away, ever send me a request to help one of her friends struggling to find God inbetween diapers and those horrid $3 per minute late fees at the daycare pickup line I know EXACTLY who to send her to. (By the way Ron…have pity on me, and post her name and how she is doing!)

Now, I did not get to meet the more than token African American priest, as he had other commitments that day. However, Ron, Bishop Ed, and Phil told me quite a bit about how he was taking Celtic theology but expressing it in the lively evangelical way that so many traditionally African American Churches have become famous for. Later, on our way home, I met a woman who swore that he was the first minister who had ever made God sound real. She had been to exactly ONE service, having gone with a friend, but months later could still tell me parts of his sermon she was still thinking and praying and reading her bible about. I suggested that since the one time taste of the cookie had turned out to be so filling, she ought to go back and taste what a month’s worth of such fare might be like. It isn’t important if she ever went back…that clergy person changed that one person and for one moment made God real to her.

Since he lives, literally, less than 10 miles away, that community is also where Ron is known to say a mass or two. Altogether, at the time, they probably had less than 20 “official” lay members, and weekend attendence of not a whole lot more. Area Fundamentalist churches spread rumors about them, denounced them as evil, and while they had good relations with the pastor of the area Roman Church, the Roman Bishop of the area certainly wasn’t calling Ron to go have coffee and discuss international day of prayer.

How many clergy? To how many laity? What was that ratio?
It was just enough. Which is undoubtably exactly how God planned it, and why he had these 5 very different people, all of whom shared a love of all things Celtic and Catholic, to end up meeting each other.

This church had been criticized as a “collection of clergy in search of a reason to exist”. A problem church. Just another example of why the Independent Catholics will be forever “a mess” / “disorganized” / “ineffective”.

This church opened their doors to the Gnostic, Old Catholic, Ecumenical Franciscan, Independent Catholic, and Roman Catholics who made up that ISM Family Reunion. Each of us went home having listened to the others, and knowing a lot more about what things we had in common, and what things we didn’t. Most of all we went home after relating to each other as fellow humans and Catholics.

How many clergy did they have?
Just enough. They were not, and I am willing to bet are not today, a “problem” church. They may have been a church with a marketing problem – after all, who better to start a diaper drive for the local woman’s shelter than the young mother seminarian? One newspaper story of her munchkins climbing on the piles of diapers as she sits there in her seminary collar explaining why Celtic Catholics view social justice a little differently than their Roman cousins, and “BAM!” I guarrantee the following week there would be at least 2 or 3 young mothers, who would then go to a mass where no one made them sit behind bullet proof glass and no one cared if the 18 month old toddled up to Rev. Gerry mid homily, only to be carried back like she was a grandchild instead of an interruption. (That idea isn’t copyrighted. All you denominational leaders with young mother seminarians, go ahead. Try it! Then post photos here.)

This article was bemoaning the fatw of clegy who go, as they said, $80,000 into debt only to find they can’t get a job. It talked about bi-vocational clergy like it was the latest greatest new thing.

Paul made tents. Matthew banged on doors to collect taxes. Peter was a fisherman. Mary Magdalene invested and managed her funds to create income. Martha cooked, cleaned, and washed. Pricilla and her husband ran a family business. Bi-vocational clergy should be the norm, and because bi-vocational clergy have other work, families, and responsibilities, there is a valid reason for God to decide that the old imperial model of a single priest with maybe an assistant pastor and a lay or religious secretary is just plain wrong.

That last thought is going to be uncomfortable with a lot of folks, especially in denominations that invest all the parish authority in the priest who is pastor (and way too often white, older, and male). It will surely generate the usual slew of private message hate mail from single priests with fancy garages and lots of lacey things from Will and Balmer. It is entirely possible that one or more of the older, male, white guys who wear white beanies won’t like it either. Tough. Having been the sole owner of a few business endevors, I get it. It feels good to be the King. Or Queen. But, no matter how nicely it is dressed, or how innocently it comes into your hands, power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

And the last place you want absolute power corrupting absolutely is in a Church. Bi-Vocational clergy by the very nature of being so must learn to share power and authority. They have to share. Be it sharing with laity, religious, other clergy, or heaven forbid, the denomination down the street, bi-vocational clergy have to do that, or they remain trapped in the tiny world they can build part time. Pastors have to let the music minister have the ability to change songs. Clergy professors have to admit when the seminarian happens to be more right, or at the very least let graduated seminarians not yet ordained teach the Theology 101 class. That gives the Professor more time to make sure that “Comparitive Thomasian Commentary” has a lesson plan that can be delivered online at 1/3 the cost. Directors of denominational seminaries need to wake up to the fact that if the college down the street has a bible history class as part of it’s humanities program, it is not the end of the world if the seminarian goes there on Wednesday nights instead of your seminary class that is Tuesday-Thursday. Even better would be admitting that the faculty at University of NH blows doors off your M. Div. Because they spent last summer on a dig in Isreal, so you cancel your seminary class and just send everyone to that class and give them full credit.  Bishops, for the love of all that is Holy, identify your clergy who manage well. Check out the linked in profile about their past jobs or current jobs. Stage a fake terrorist plane crash and watch which clergy rise to lead. Then, make them pastors, and unless there is a confirmation, get out of their way. Go finish the policy manual so they have a nice 3 ring binder to pull out when someone says “Hey, can we go ahead and start having the 10 year olds do one homily a month?”, “Joe is homebound, but has a 3d printer. He has edible ink made from wheat. Can I consecrate that, so while he watches our live stream mass, he can print and take communion?”, and all the other questions pastors deal with. Then they just flip open the binder, check the index, and say “Mary, go ahead and plan an essay contest for children’s mass 12 weeks from now. Winner gets to read it as homily. Make sure to give them the right readings – that is feast of St. So and so.” “George, tell Joe to write up his request, but it will have to go up to the liturgy committee first, then be checked by our head theologian, Bishop What’s Her Name. And make sure he is on the list to get a Eucharistic Minister to do lay liturgy with Eucharist at his house in the meantime.” No dithering, no emails bugging you while you and the bishops at your town’s Christian interfaith Confrence work out the group “Our Father” and prayer for peace you are doing at that big mall next month, which might just save a few souls.

There are lots of us already in denominations doing all these things. Bi-vocational clergy, having multiple clergy and lay ministers so different people can hear in the language of their life is common in some OC/IC communities, and to their credit some progressive Roman parishes. Yes, many Anglican and Episcopal, Roman and other denominations, dioceses, and parishes can and should read that article, these comments, and do some research on these concepts.

But, you IC and OC, you progressive Roman parishes and communities out there…..God gave you a light, why hide it. Google the other churches in your area, regardless of denomination. Handwrite a letter offering to meet for coffee. At coffee, invite that pastor to come to a mass or some other event like a potluck. Build some bridges. Let them see what bi-vocational clergy, sharing of authority and power, investing laity, and all the rest look like at your house. When offered a return invitation go with an open mind to thier house. Not every denomination is going to have a theology or a governance that can tolerate bi-vocational clergy. That doesn’t mean however, that God may have given them some other gift that your community despretely neeeds.

In other words, get up from this desk, away from this keyboard, and like the article said….Go. Out. Walk. Talk. Build the city of God.

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Filed under Catholicism, Education, Mentoring, and Teaching, ISMFR 2013, Not All Catholics Are Roman, Religion and Faith

How many days left? 23?! Oh My ……

How many days left? 23?! Oh My …….

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My Future In A Poetic Cup Of Tea Leaves

Someone a bit further down the road I am traveling wrote a searing first person account of the day before being placed on a feeding tube.

This is the address: http://tlohuis.wordpress.com/2014/07/18/broken/
Or  You can read it here.

It was scary to read, but at the same time unavoidable.

I came close again this spring to having to sit in that office and talk about a feeding tube, when at the last minute, after fighting for 2 years, NH Medicaid finally gave in and covered the 3 cans a day of ensure I need for 24 days. So far it is working, and my weight is slowly going up. However, no word yet if they will continue to cover it or not.

Someday though, I will lose the battle with gastroperesis, an unwelcome gift from the lesion damage of multiple sclerosis. Already it takes my stomach over 4 hours that a normal person is rid of in under 60 minutes. A dairy free vegetarian,  almost everything I eat is inheretly low fat. On the days I plan to do nothing more than lay in bed and write, I must eat over 1700 calories. If I want to be active, washing dishes, writing, gardening, or any of 100 other tasks, I sometimes discover that I must consume as many as 2500 calories between 6am and midnight.

It gets exhausting to eat, and on the budget allowed on a low fixed income, the ability to have variety is near non existant. Some days I swear I can’t do it any more, can’t pay this thing away. Some days I swear I can’t do it,  then a commercial ad “looking for this?” bruskly moves me out of the area I was in, and convinces me that yes, I can eat food pantry oatmeal for breakfast every morning, twice. Down an ensure while dressing. Eat food pantry rice or pasta with home grown veggies at lunch, and another ensure at 3. For dinner? More rice, pasta, beans…broken up exactly 12 times a month by a single Morningstar item that makes me feel like I am eating real chicken or steak in a parody of whatever cooked from scratch Betty Crocker miracle I have made for my guys. When we can, I have whatever cake, brownies, pies, or candy we can scrape together money to buy. Down an ensure with bedtime meds. 

Actually, even thinking about what I will be eat in 3 hours is exhausting. That’s one reason I have home care aides. They know to just cook something, anything, as appetizing as their skill level allows, and take away the burden of trying to stare into a half bare pantry, mentally subtract the things I must save for the guys, and choose. Sometimes, picking what’s for dinner is a supreme act of mercy.

This writer has hit the wall. The only way to pump enough food into her mouth to keep her weight on even a somewhat sustainable level is to surgically insert a tube to constantly push in bags of unflavored Ensure. So she will never tase cinamon again, or the crisp of a potato chip. Just a sense of fullness as one bag empties, to be replaced by another. She speaks of the pain, the questions, the wishes for more time, even as she knows they don’t matter.

It is like looking at my future in a gypsy’s tea leaves….that God, science, and I may delay….but which will, like the grey hairs on my head, come unbidden and most likely without warning. One would think it would cause me to slowly savor each bite, roll it around my mouth tasting and feeling the texture. Sometimes, I still can, but all to often eating is a mechanical thing I do, a life sustaining procedure no more enjoyable than the 8 times a day I take medicine, or the monthly trip to the Doctor.

I decide to try, after reading her poem, to go find dessert that I can actually enjoy, can take an extra minute to let sit on my toungue. “Yes” I say to myself “There has to be a bit of caramel, or chocolate left I can drizzle over the pantry cheerios. That would taste.”

I glance at the clock, and it glares back that it is 9:56pm, and I am 400 calories short for the day.

No time to hunt for caramel, I double up on the ensure by adding 200 calories of soy powder to it, and choke it down fast so I don’t taste the chalky bite. Exhausted, I head for bed, wondering if  tomorrow will be my turn to be like her…broken.

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Filed under Cooking, disability, Mental Health, Multiple Sclerosis and other Neurological Diseases, poetry

Thoughts When Evangelical Essays Get Thrown on my Catholic Group.

I logged on to my facebook group about midnight with every intention of going to bed early. William, a member had posted a lunk to an essay by a young Evangelical,
Read orginal Article Here

On his personal journey in how to reconcile GLBTQ marriage with his denominational family. In it he outlines how his studies have led him not only to be opposed to (at a minimum) marriage equality, but also newly opposed to birth control.

William’s comment was

“I especially commend this piece from First things.”

And all 100 of my most active pro-marriage equality members were staying away from commenting with 10 foot poles. This was obviously going to intrigue some of the other 1400 members, so before I started getting private messages asking why so and so hadn’t put a comment, I wrote the following:

(Note that there is virtually no one more fearless sitting in the back pews in scruffy lay Franciscan robes than an MS patient. We are slowly dying anyway, so why not raise a hand and speak?)

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