Monday, September 14, 2020

Heroic: A Passing Teenager Saved a Mother and Children from Their Burning Car

FROM: "A teen rescued a mother and three children, including a 1-year-old in a car seat, from a burning car in Waterbury on Wednesday and police have honored him for his bravery. --------------------------------------------------------------------- The parking lot at 24 Swift Place in Waterbury still has charred remains of an SUV, which was fully engulfed in flames when first responders arrived Wednesday afternoon. The scene could’ve been one of a terrible tragedy if not for the courageous act of an 18-year old.
Trapped inside the SUV, just before it burst into flames, were a mother and three small children. ---------------------------------------------------------------------- “I felt helpless,” said Latrisha Chambers of Waterbury. “All I could do is pray. I was screaming for help.” Jaylah, Ellie and Isaiah, ages 9, 4 and 1, were inside with their mother before Justin Gavin ran to their aid. ---------------------------------------------------------------------- Gavin, the passing teenager said, “As I saw the car coming, I saw the little kids in the back, I kept yelling, the car’s on fire. The car’s on fire,” said Gavin, who was just getting off a bus in the area when he witnessed what was happening. "...said he saw the flames flickering beneath the car, beginning to build when he started to help the children from the burning vehicle. ---------------------------------------------------------------------- “I told the little girl to unbuckle her seatbelt as fast as she can so when I threw open the door, I could just pull them out,” said Gavin. Chambers said she was in shock during the frightening moments while Gavin was assisting. “He’s like get out, get out,” said Chambers. “Everybody’s like you got to get out, it’s on fire and I didn’t know it was on fire.” Gavin said he doesn’t scare easily but in this case was nervous. “I was kind of scared because I’ve never seen a burning car before,” said Gavin. To recognize the heroic effort, Waterbury Police honored Gavin Wednesday, giving him something normally reserved for officers themselves, the chief’s commemorative coin. Meanwhile Chambers has a message for Gavin, the person she refers to as her angel. “There’s nothing I could do to show you or ever repay what you did for me and my children, ever,” she said. ---------------------------------------------------------------------- The event may have had an altering effect on Gavin’s life too. Before this he had dropped out of school. Now he is not only considering returning but is thinking about a career as a first responder. “I probably most likely will join the police force or become a firefighter,” he said. “Because after yesterday I feel like there’s more people that can be helped.” You can watch the video of police honoring Gavin..."

Friday, September 4, 2020

"Half of U.S. Christians say casual sex between consenting adults is sometimes or always acceptable"--So contrary to what is true; contrary to moral realism

Wow! These PEW statistics show most Americans reject what is a central moral truth--that sexual relations ought to be lived in a life-long committed relationship of a loving couple. That sexual promiscuity is ALWAYS morally wrong. So bizarre that even half of U.S. Christians say "casual sometimes or always acceptable." What I am convinced of, however, is that moral realism is true--that fidelity and commitment are true for all humans. But according to PEW not any longer. ----- ----------------------------------- ----------------------------------- FROM PEW: "Half of Christians say casual sex – defined in the survey as sex between consenting adults who are not in a committed romantic relationship – is sometimes or always acceptable. Six-in-ten Catholics (62%) take this view, as do 56% of Protestants in the historically Black tradition, 54% of mainline Protestants and 36% of evangelical Protestants."

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Memories: a time for in the fall...

A time for...

In the fall a time for springing

festivals of Monet-splashed leaves
that my sister and I raked and piled high
in the deep ditch in front
and jumped down into,

and our large garden behind the parsonage
with pumpkins, melons, and withered corn rows...

and lightning bugs on the wane,
flashing on and off

full of fall...

--Dan Wilcox

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Words of Hope and Moral Choice even in the worst evil

In Every Crisis
when flailed, blind-sided,
going down fast in
a basket abyss shrivel of worth-loss
and hope fails all drowned,
do we launch deeper into the deep?

do we weep,
do we shrive?

for in every crisis

*From crawler to butterfly--chrysalis
Even in the worst, most evil events, each of us still has the difficult possibility of heeding Viktor Frankl’s shocking words about their horrific experiences in Auschwitz Concentration Camp:

“Between stimulus [even trying to survive at Auschwitz!] and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response.
In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
“As we see it, an analogous relationship between the realm of human freedom and a realm superior to man is quite imaginable,
so that man is endowed with free will...”
Viktor E. Frankl, survivor of Auschwitz Concentration Camp. However, his wife died in Bergen Belsen.

“(26 March 1905 – 2 September 1997 was an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist, and a Holocaust survivor, of Theresienstadt, Auschwitz, Kaufering and Türkheim. Frankl was the founder of logotherapy (literally "healing through meaning") a meaning-centered school of psychotherapy…part of existential and humanistic psychology theories. He is the author of over 39 books; he is most noted for his best-selling book Man's Search for Meaning based on his experiences in various Nazi concentration camps...
"In 1941 he married his first wife Tilly Grosser, who was a station nurse at the Rothschild hospital. Soon after they were married, she became pregnant but they were forced to abort the child. Tilly died in the Bergen Belsen concentration camp. His father Gabriel died in the Terezin concentration camp (Theresienstadt) in 1942. His mother and brother, Walter, were both killed in Auschwitz."
from Wikipedia

In the Light of Moral Realism,

Dan Wilcox

Saturday, August 15, 2020

pebbled poems strewn along the shore of this life

First pub. in The Houston Review

utah bolder

eye widening rock
pastels bold in harvest's sun--
basalt garden wonder


dying leaves fluttering
oaks and aspen into glory


at the park's bat box

my grandson scooping up handfuls
of dust
and swinging it loose--
fogged clouds
lighted by sunshine
that disperse
back to cleated ground


gull wings
lightly spraying over gray clod fields

6-year drought--
so 'irrigating'!




date palms swaying up
in crimson's sky
feather dusting


Lapping Ideas

Backstroking across the ceiling
white gulls of light arcing
wing refraction

from the high intensity bulbs above
that shekel-flash on the blue body waves of the pool
bright incandescent—dare we say transcendent—lights

swimming in this liquid marble
strikes of lightening broken
and broken on the waves
like archetypes that shimmer in this cavern
and electrify under water across the blue cement,
chimeras of our mental synapses;

After the swim, stepping out the glass door
into the brilliant sunlight--

Shades of Plato.


shadowed mail box
overwhelmed by green, purple
bloom jungled wonder



a trail of dashes
translucent on our red brick--
night's telltale caller


lines, no white clothes but
birds black in a row clothes-pinned
to telephone wires



starbacked night, coffee-drunk sky:
rows of cars metal
at the red orb,

a lone skateboarder foot-struts,
waiting for the flash of sage green
his board-wheeler a bill of adding
getting a toehold
from the faceless

hidden in their dark auto glass

when all dreams night
into marred perception


Fog rising in the west
Watercolor washed
Horizon faded jean
Sky filled east
By the blazing sun
Central Valley


falling like cold ash--prayer in our last hour


dusked stars, galactic stream--shimmering in twilight


snow falls to crystal
path deep white over my knees--
light inside my head


ice melts
clear splashes on the teak matt
our heat,
'tinder' intense caresses
and our slushious kiss


warped fence boards in sand
lean askew toward green windbreak--
old gnarled cypress


horse trailer rattles
by curved eucalyptus leaves
that skit to gutter


yellow-beaked birds perch
in the wind-shifted branches
clamorous squawking


Cambria fire

green vines wind up fences
bursting with succulent grapes--
but dusted in ash


crinkly gray strands caught
in my black brush of bristles
approaching heir time


Up Early

In the gray-hazed dawn
Pale light blossoms
Softly explode from a violet tree
Rising by a jade-green hedge
Birdsong morning


Night Watch Psalm

Walled granite
One mile
Below the rocked rim
In the rusted Canyon
Rushing Colorado
River russet copper;
Nearby in the evened dusk
I lay ‘stilled,’ a silent psalm
In the shine
Of that lighted granite
Eyes wide in the dawn
Of that Night



Seek the moral compass
Round the world ringed
Don't pass by on the other side;
Be passionate
And encompass
Love's Sphere


when one doesn't
see the dark


Some poems first pub. in The Green Silk Journal, Stylus Poetry Journal, Idlewheel, ink sweat and tears, 4 and 20 poetry, Full of Crow, The Cherry Blossom Review, etc.

In poetry's lightness,

Dan Wilcox

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Book Review: STAMPED FROM THE BEGINNING by Ibram X. Kendi

This non-fiction survey of racism in American history is well worth the read. It is a good introduction to racism in American history and the winner of the National Book Award. The explanations and descriptions of early 16th to 18th racist leaders are seldom written about, so few people know of that era other than brief descriptions of the murderous Middle Passage.

Kendi has a deep passion for what he writes, and he gives new readers a handy way to break down and to remember all of the complex events, leaders, and crises that took place over hundreds of years. His handy key history sheet reduces all humans into about 4 or 5 categories related to the topic of racism--there are racists, or assimilators, or accommodators (not his term, can’t remember, but something like it), and a small number are anti-racists.

So this popular book in a simple basic sense at first, is helpful, especially for those who don't know racism's history.

And, despite his skimming across the surface of most of American history, Kendi does go a bit more deeply into the horrific tragedy of Reconstruction and its racist aftermath when the racist Redeemers took over all Southern governments between 1865 and 1879 (and the U.S. government let them; indeed, the Hays government helped them!:-()

His book was a good review for me of that time period since I read Foner’s Reconstruction, a scholarly tome about 7-10 years ago.
HOWEVER by midpoint Kendi’s basic schematic for categorizing all of humankind begins to show signs of distortion, misleading claims, down-wrong falsehood, and confusion. He obsesses to make everyone fit into his ideological biases, into his few cookie-cutter stereotypical categories.

Cutting every human to fit into one of his 4 or 5 Procustrian beds. He, especially does this when he attempts to blame almost everyone for holding racist views, even calls nearly all abolitionists and Civil Rights workers “racist” including Garrison, Douglas, and Martin Luther King! And then his book gets worse.

#1 Kendi confuses inherent worth of all humans with thinking that all humans essentially have the same immediate achievement ability. He thinks American leaders who thought that illiterate, abused ex-slaves weren’t immediately ready for voting, leading, and achieving were racists because of that. Maybe some of them were.

Contrary to what Kendi asserts, American leaders seeking to help ex-slaves become literate before they were allowed to vote (and become full citizens) weren't "racist," weren't denying their inherent worth. Rather it was an acknowledgment that despite the Blacks' human inherent worth, enslavement had hindered them, had kept them from achievement in many areas, and that therefore, the ex-slaves needed to be given the means and finances and education to work toward achieving what had been previously denied them.

Most of ex-slaves, especially the field workers, weren’t as capable as educated Whites and free Negroes, just like at-risk teens raised in dysfunctional abusive families aren’t immediately capable of the same achievements as teens raised in high-achieving positive, loving families.

Kendi goes onto to claim that unless all Africans were immediately given total control of their nations in Africa in the post-colonial era, then the leaving European leaders were just as racist and oppressive as their forebears who had committed so much evil. Not so.

This shows a severe lack of historical understanding, anthropology, etc. OR more likely, since Kendi is a brilliant individual with a PhD., his claims show how ideological-driven his book is.

He repeatedly commits either/or fallacies, blames all human horrors on only whites, excuses all POC from any responsibilities, and so forth.

A quick cursory glance at African nations, as they are now, 50-100 years later shows that Kendi’s view is delusionary, confused, and wrong.

No African nations, not a single one—at least none that I can think of--have rational, civil, democratic, balanced leaders. YEt most of the the nations have amazing natural resources and great potential. And millions of worthy humans who could accomplish much if given the chance.

But instead these nations' resources have been squandered by a succession of corrupt, often brutal dictators, autocrats, even mass murderers!

Some of these immoral horrors can be blamed on the abuse, misuse, racism, and massive theft of colonialism, but not all, or even most. Think of Uganda under Idi Amin, the Rwanda genocide, the former Congo, Zimbabwe under Mugabe (who has turned the former bread-basket of Africa into a failed malnourished state), Mozambique, Egypt, Algeria, Somalia, etc.

The few somewhat better functioning nations such as Kenya still have much poverty, suffer many killings during violent elections, engage in plenty of irrational behaviors, and lots of unnecessary suffering.

Even mostly democratic South Africa (probably the best example of a modern state in Africa) has since the end of Apartheid, been poorly governed, and even worse run, by the corrupt leader, Jacob Zuma, a polygamist, who built a mansion while millions of citizens still live in shacks and poverty, etc.

Though S.A. has had about 30 years to start making huge changes, restructuring and opening up the nation to ALL of its citizens, Black leaders (with the exception of the elderly Mandela) have failed miserably.

It’s true that many years of racist ruling by the white supremacist Dutch Reformed leaders left behind many severe problems, but Black leaders for the most part haven’t solved those and, instead, have created more problems of their own.

Nor does Kendi deal with horrific African leaders of the historic past such as Shaka and the Zulu. Nor does he engage with the tribal slaughters by Blacks that occurred in Africa for centuries and that still happen.

Instead, Kendi acts like only white Europeans are racist and engage in all manners of evil.

It's tragically true that hundreds of years of oppression, persecution, abuse, enslavement, and slaughter were caused by white Europeans. Kendi is correct there.

Where he misleads is that he fails to identify and deal with the hundreds of years of Black and Brown people's evil actions.

Further, Kendi defends the horrific criminal riots of the late 1960’s in the U.S. calling them anti-racist “rebellions”!

Any quick overview of U.S. history shows this to be completely untrue. Arson-burnings of many blocks of businesses including Black ones, massive lootings, vandalism, killings, etc. aren’t anti-racist “rebellions”! They are criminal riots.

He goes onto support the criminal Black Panthers and other violent Black racists who committed crimes including many killings.

Kendi also seems to defend ‘gangsta rap with its endless obscenities, calls for lethal violence, injustice, and so forth. He defends such rappers as Tupac.

About the only Black leader for civil rights that Kendi thinks gets good marks for anti-racism is Angela Davis! Yet she is a doctrinaire communist! Davis, allegedly, refused to condemn the Soviet Union and other communist nations for their imprisonment of millions of innocent protesters, writers, and scientists, and for their state-murder of millions.

Good grief, Davis admires Lenin, one of the worst leaders of the 20th century, guilty for the death of millions of humans!

Davis even accepted the Lenin Prize. Etc.

While her direct involvement in the kidnapping and murders of people by the Jacksons, and the attempt to help George Jackson to break out of San Quentin was rejected by the jury in her trial, the fact that she allowed the younger Jackson to use her own guns shows negligence. Heck, allegedly, she employed Jonathan as her bodyguard.

What had happened to the Black nonviolence of great leaders like Bayard Rustin who convinced a wavering King to not even have a gun in his home?
Davis also supports South African Winnie Mandela as a woman of "courage"! Sick!..Read about that immoral, unjust leader who advocated murder of others by burning tires around their bodies!

Kendi appears to admire Chairman Mao, one of the worst mass murderers of human history!

Kendi speaks positively of W.E.B. Du Bois going to meet Mao in the late 1950’s. That’s about the time Mao caused the starvation deaths of millions of innocent Chinese. Then there are the millions Mao intentionally slaughtered.

Further, Kendi claims that even Frederick Douglas, William Lloyd Garrison, Dubois, King, Obama, etc. held racist views. I kid you not.

He doesn’t mention the great Civil Rights leader, Bayard Rustin, who began protesting back in the 1940’s! Then advised King and others in the 1950's Please read the powerful biography, Lost Prophet: The Life and Times of Bayard Rustin.

Nor in all of his over 500 pages does Kendi speak of the huge influence of heretical and liberal Christianity as the source and standard bearer of anti-racism, abolition, civil rights, etc, (except for a few comments on Woolman and Quakerism).

And the further the book goes, the more obsessed, Kendi becomes in his simplistic ideological claims. As Kendi says in a recent interview, he thinks all humans are either racist or anti-racist. Another case of the either/or fallacy.

Worst of all Kendi thinks that the solution for racism is power and self-interest, not altruism or spiritual elevation or moral realism. Forget about King, John Lewis, and so many others who emphasized that the answer to racism and all other evils is altruism.

The central basis of Kendi’s book appears to be Critical Race Theory, though I don’t remember him actually writing about that overtly.

In the 3rd section of the book (an era that I know well), I started skimming for key names and actions because his commentary is superficial and a distortion of 20th century history and leaders. I do agree with his condemnation of the unjust actions of the famous racist leaders.

In conclusion, I am glad I read Stamped, despite its distortions and failures and ideological fanaticism.

I do agree that racism is still with us, and that the long evil shadow of the enslavement past still distorts American culture and society, and that all of us need to work to alter all that is wrong, and that intensive help needs to be given to Blacks and others who have suffered from structural racism of the past.

But the HUGE glaring chasm in Kendi’s book is that he blames only Whites for racism.

He never deals with the fact that Blacks were the ones in Africa who sold millions of other Blacks into slavery, or that long before Europeans came down the coast and started the Middle Passage, Brown Muslims were enslaving millions of Blacks for centuries, etc.

And, most, negligently, Kendi dismisses any Black responsibility for immorality, injustice, and killings. He never deals with Black crime, including the horrific slaughter by Blacks in Chicago, including many children. Instead, he blames everything on white racism!

Kendi also denies that Blacks are responsible for vandalism, abuse, drug-use, prostitution, broken families, missing fathers, illegitimate children, promiscuity, etc. OR sometimes he does even worse, Kendi justifies immoral and the unjust actions by Blacks claiming that those wrong actions aren’t really wrong!

I was tempted to next write that Kendi has done a “white-wash” of American history, but, heck, he would no doubt accuse me of racist speech.


In the Light of Justice, Goodness, and Equality,

Dan Wilcox

Monday, July 27, 2020

Part #3: Significant Influences--Writers Francis Schaeffer and Jack Kerouac's Life Stances

Writers who ‘fathered’ me, giving my young adult self various versions of deep time eyes:

1. Thomas Merton, Liberal Catholic Monk, Meditator, and Social Moralist

2. Friends for 300 Years by Howard Brinton

3. Henry David Thoreau, Transcendentalist who Wrote “Civil Disobedience”

4. ERB, Edgar Rice Burroughs, SF Author of simplistic, but enjoyable stories of Barsoom and other galactic adventures

5. Aldous Huxley, Brilliant Author and Thinker of Brave New World, Island, and Point Counter Point

6. C.S. Lewis, Ex-atheist Liberal Christian Thinker and Fiction Writer

7. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, German Christian Leader who Opposed Hitler, The Cost of Discipleship

And there were other writers, whose legacy has been only partially good, because they communicated bad and fallacious views, ideas, and harmful actions. They were bad models for young impressionable Dan:

21. Francis and Edith Shaeffer, famous couple who founded L’Abri. He, at first a missionary to the Swiss beginning in the late 1940’s, later became a Christian philosophical apologist and she wrote a famous biographical, inspirational book about their famous Christian community and intellectual center in Switzerland.

In my young adult years, I avidly read most of Schaeffer’s critiques of secular and atheistic life stances and apologetical defenses of mere Christianity. I was deeply impressed with his insights, artistic interests, and caring views.

His emphasis that every Christian needs to have a total commitment to agape love, the way of Jesus, he presented in his short book The Mark of the Christian.

Schaeffer had a deep understanding of key atheist views, their weak philosophical bases, and their destructive implications for humankind. His writings strongly influenced me and millions of other Christians coming of age in the late 60’s and early 70’s. Two of his best books are
The God Who Is There and Escape from Reason.

What I didn’t know back then, because Schaeffer hid this, is that he wasn’t a ‘mere’ Christian (in the sense of C.S. Lewis) like he presented himself, but a hardline Calvinist!

I still find that hard to understand or square with his more liberal artistic and moral views. It turns out, that he was a member of and missionary for an extremely fundamentalistic Calvinistic denomination that had split from a larger conservative one.

This all only came to light later in the early 1980’s when I discovered other facts about him that, also, were so contrary to his public image and his reasoning in his books. For example, another horror, I still find inexplicable is that he strongly supported nuclear weapons. Doing so, of course, is grossly contrary to the moral outlook of his book, The Mark of a Christian.

Schaeffer's wife, Edith Schaeffer, wrote L'Abri,a famous biographical story of their outreach community of L’Abri in Switzerland. She greatly inspired and motivated and misled me!

In her riveting, deeply spiritual biography, Edit emphasizes many instances of supernatural answers to prayer. Based upon her book, my dedication to prayer became much stronger, and my belief in miracles increased (though I still had strong doubts about all of that because there were no cases of proven miracles and no evidential cases of prayer actually changing any events).

Years later, when I read the tell-all autobiography by their son, Frank Schaeffer, Crazy for God and other accounts of their famous story of L'Abri, I discovered, that while she may have been sincere in her beliefs, her claims seem to be shown to be false. In fact, it turns out that her husband Francis was given to severe depression, that he verbally and physically harmed her, and that there were other disheartening facts about their story that were contrary to her idealistic presentation in her biography.

So much for the good and bad influence of these two authors on my life in the past.

That was the Christian influence, a mixture of very good and very bad.

22. Jack Kerouac, infamous Beat novelist and poet who influenced 2 generations of young poeple. He wrote life-changing autobiographical novels including On the Road, The Dharma Bums, and Big Sur.

Though I had wonderful experiences “going on the road,” being influenced to study Buddhism, getting a backpack, hitch-hiking like him repeatedly across sections of the U.S. (and later across Europe and Palestine-Israel),
overall Kerouac was a bad influence.

Fortunately, I adopted some of his life stance views and actions, filtered through the lens of my Baptist Christian faith, so I didn’t succumb to any of his vices and immoral actions.

It still astounds me that I read books such as The Dharma Bums, and centered myself only on his exciting nature hikes, work as a U.S. Forest Service fire lookout, and evocations and descriptions of his love for God (which I mistakenly interpreted as similar to my own devotion to God, though his God was considerably different from the one I believed in).

I skipped over his often positive comments about sexual promiscuity, heavy drinking, drugs, irresponsibility, etc. Those down-sides to his life stance, I very strongly opposed but managed to admire him as one of my heroes. This later changed at the University of Nebraska, when an older grad student warned me of the dangers of Kerouac, Ginsberg, and other Beats, explaining how their gross personal lives contradicted their commitment to God, love, and altruism.

Tragically, there was a bad instance of this older students' negative analysis demonstrated when one of Kerouac's and Ginsberg's close friends got a young student pregnant and then skipped town, just after the Beats were emphasizing to be loving to everyone. Too often, their "love" was selfish lust.

I’m amazed that I could become so enamored of Kerouac such a figure and writer whose life stance was so contrary to my own. Basically, I think it was his creativity and his adventure-some actions that hooked me.

Always, I was somewhat of a wild spirit, even as a fundamentalist Baptist kid. My sister used to tell me later how she thought I really was going to live in the forest in a cave when I grew up like I told her when we were kids;-).

My natural inclination was further spurred in opposite direction of my mom who so strongly sought to discipline and direct me into a very ordered, controlled, secure, unadventurous life. And, also, one mustn’t forget, that in my late teens, like most young men, I was feeling rebellious and probably had lots of male hormone coursing through me.

And, I was disconcerted, and disheartened that my dad let my mom control, inhibit, and cow him, and put him down, and disparage him. I really hated that and didn’t want to be like that, under a controlling woman’s grip.

So, enter Kerouac, via another obsessive reader student in our high school philosophy class. This intellectual often read books such as Kerouac’s in particular, The Dharma Bums, even during lectures from our great teacher, Tom Keene!

But that brilliant student wasn’t a good role model either. He suddenly disappeared from class one week and didn’t return. It turned out that he had taken off to travel west, hitch-hiking and riding the rails like Kerouac.

I followed in their steps, hitch-hiking back and forth across parts of the U.S., then across Europe, Palestine-Israel, etc.

Without Kerouac’s influence, I would have still adventured a little, but would have stayed in college (instead of taking 7 years to graduate), would have gotten my teaching degree at 22, instead of at 32!

Then I would have been prepared for adult-married-fathering life in my early 20’s instead of being a late bloomer, in my early 30’s. My wife and I would have been far more financially secure. I would have probably figured out a way to buy a great real estate deal offered to me--the Speer place without lying to the old owner shortly before he died.

On the other hand, would I have missioned at the Northern Cheyenne Reservation, hitch-hiked across the U.S. and Europe, lived in Palestine-Israel on a kibbutz, lived in Haight-Ashbury, etc.?

Long live reading:-)

In the Light of Truth, Justice, Equality, and Altruism,

Dan Wilcox

Sunday, July 26, 2020

How Black Lives Matter as a call for justice is different from some BLM's acts of vandalism and harm

In the news, Giants baseball player, Sam Coonrod, refuses to kneel for racial justice...

Coonrod ought to have separated Black Lives Matter as a very important call to justice and kindness and reconciliation and against racism, from the bad examples of some BLM leaders and protesters who by their calls for violence, and their vandalism, arson, and hitting 49 police officers in Chicago with heavy objects, etc. harm others and the movement.

Maybe, Coonrod had heard statements such as this by Hawk Newsome, a leader of BLM of New York:
"If this country doesn’t give us what we want, then we will burn down this system and replace it.
All right? And I could be speaking figuratively. I could be speaking literally. It’s a matter of interpretation...“I don’t condone nor do I condemn rioting,”...Hawk Newsome said during an interview Wednesday evening on “The Story” with Martha MacCallum.

We are living in tragic times now. Most humans are too ideological, too divisive and so many are turning to violence.

Thankfully, however, many are refusing to become ideological and divisive, but kneel, committed to the nonviolent ideals of Bayard Rustin, John Lewis, and other great Civil Rights workers.
FROM "...Coonrod becomes MLB’s Giant target for stance on Black Lives Matter movement"

"LOS ANGELES — Citing his faith as a Christian man and his desire to remain consistent in his beliefs, San Francisco Giants reliever Sam Coonrod explained why he didn’t kneel during a pregame moment of unity at Dodger Stadium Thursday.

“I meant no ill will by it,” the Carrollton native said. “I don’t think I’m better than anybody. I’m just a Christian. I believe I can’t kneel before anything but God, Jesus Christ. I chose not to kneel. I feel if I did kneel I’d be a hypocrite. I don’t want to be a hypocrite.”

"Prior to the playing of the national anthem on Opening Night, every player and coach from both the Dodgers and Giants held a long piece of black fabric, and all but Coonrad also took a knee. Coonrod held the fabric along with everyone else but remained standing.

"The moment of silence was intended to support the Black Lives Matter movement, which Coonrod said he has had difficulty embracing.

“I’m a Christian,” Coonrod said. “I can’t get on board on a couple of things I’ve read about Black Lives Matter, how they lean toward Marxism and said some negative things about the nuclear family.”

"Many are supporting Coonrod’s stance. Many are not."

Story by Kerry Crowley of the San Jose Mercury News

In the Light of equality, justice, and reconciliation,

Dan Wilcox

Friday, July 24, 2020

Part #2: "Deep Time Eyes"--Discovering the True MetaStory

In attempting to formulate and promote an evolutionary life stance, a metastory, thinker Micahel Dowd speaks of "deep time eyes."

“Religion has been failing in its most fundamental ask, which is helping us to live in right relationship with primary reality.”
“...I’m an evolutionary theologian...viewing through deep time...”
“I agree with John Michael Greer that there’s two major mythologies that most people are stuck in...the myth of perpetual progress...the other is the myth of the apocalypse...we don’t need to get involved, because the whole thing is going to hell in a hand basket anyway. The truth of the matter is we’re in an evolutionary process...”
We currently have a democracy; a democracy is a conspiracy against the natural world.”

Not true. We human primates are part of the natural world, are part of natural selection and its ruthless slow juggernaut.
Here's a powerful case of a thinker who has insight into the nature of metastories, but whose own metastory has severe problems.

All humans live by metastories. However the most difficult task in existence is figuring out which one (or more) is the True MetaStory, the account that is closest to what is real, to what is good, to what is just.

So, yes, we do need "deep-time eyes." But first we need to eliminate illusions, delusions, errors in judgment, reductionism, the human tendency to jump for simplistic answers when we as a species are only just getting started, having only existed as homo sapiens for about 300,000 to 500,000 years.

Most of that deep time was taken up with basic survival. Not until approximately around the era beginning in 600 BCE with the pre-Socratic philosophers, Plato, Socrates, the Buddha, Zoroaster, Isaiah and the writer of Job, etc. do we find human thinkers searching out the nature of reality, seeking to deeply understand what is moral and immoral, just and unjust, to explain what the Good is.

in process

Monday, July 20, 2020

How Good Writers Influence us—a parable, then examples

Another dead-beat dad abandoned his family before his son was born. Do these tragedies ever end?

A Parable: The small boy clung to his mother, but then she died of breast cancer when he was 6. In mostly bad foster houses where he grew up, he found solace and hope in books, safe at the library. Books gave him wings to escape dysfunction, loneliness, and the death traps of having no father.

When he reached young adulthood and became a writer, after graduating from the University of Michigan, he searched and searched for years looking for any trace of his absentee father, (while still grieving for his gone mother).

Finally, 3 decades later after years of diligent effort, a hire-detective located the man who was now living in Portland, Oregon, married to another woman with 3 offspring who he was ignoring, too.

The fatherless son drove across our troubled, divisive land of the U.S. to Portland, Oregon, where violent protesters were attacking businesses and police. He avoided all of that uproar and hatred, intent only to get past that craziness and tragedy, anxious to meet his unknown dad.

But when he got to downtown, he felt ambivalent and sat down in a graffiti-scrawled park, where vandals had burned the base and statue of a large elk, wondering whether he really wanted to meet this ‘father’ who had deserted his mother and him so many years ago.

Out on the rough dark waters of the Columbia River, huge ships and small boats moved by. Fog shrouded the opposite shore of Washington State.

Following directions, the investigator had given him, the adult orphan took a taxi to the luxurious address soon after dawn, on a drizzly morning, and walked up and down a wide, slick sidewalk out in front of a large mansion. The man-boy kept staring up at the immense locked door wondering if his absent father was in there.

Suddenly its owner--evidently his father--came out slamming the door behind him, and hailed the orphan’s waiting taxi, not even looking at the stranger in front of his gate, got in and sped away. Not so different from years ago.

Again, that abandoned son of so long ago was left. Only now that orphaned boy is an accomplished writer.

The abandoned son: "I stood there at the gate for hours. Only delivery men and the mail carrier came by.

After remembering years past, I reflected on that man's build. It was all wrong, stocky and overweight; and he had walked with a lunge, as if about to attack some invisible enemy. His face was grim, and with a large nose.

Not at all like me—with a skinny frame and my face with prominent cheeks and a pudgy nose; I must have gotten my body from my mother.

Suddenly, a deep knowing clobbered the seeking boy within me. That grim stranger may have spermed me, but he wasn’t my dad, not my actual father, never had been.

I may have gotten a genetic link from this total stranger, but my real father—fathers are the good writers I read growing up in those dysfunctional foster houses.

The authors who are brilliant, creative thinkers who guided me when I had no father and had lost my mother."*

*Idea for story from educator Jim Burke

My Response:
Unlike this orphan, I did have a very dear father, one who used to take me fishing, hunting, and traveling, and guided me as to what was right and helped me later with major decisions. A man who stood by me, a real friend.

And a warm idealistic mother, (very hard-working like my dad, too) who gave me and my sister a deep sense of equality and justice and diligence.

But in another sense, some of the authors I have read over the years have ‘fathered’ (and/or 'mothered') me. Maybe even more deeply than my father and mother who gave me birth and guided me when I was young.

For instance, think of how many scientists got their start as star-eyed kids because of love of and inspiration from science fiction and speculative literature.

And think of famous humanitarians and Enlightenment justice advocates who were first inspired by idealistic heroes in suspenseful stories as children.

For good or for ill, for joy and zest or sadness and some thinkers have stated, envisioning is the creator of our humanity’s future, not mere matter of facts.

Facts are only building blocks to create what isn’t yet. Our creativity and hopes and goals are the schematics, the structures for bringing into being our creative future.

Where would we be without Verne, Wells, Kant, Descartes, Plato, Aristotle, Sophocles, Voltaire, Jefferson, Paine, Shakespeare, Eliot, Huxley, Orwell, Dickens, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Hugo, Basho, Blake, Whitman, Owen, Twain, Melville, Conrad, Kafka, Bradbury, Gandhi, Hegel, Marx, Hume, James, Locke, Darwin, Sagan, Gould, Rustin, King, Farmer, etc.?

Where would I be without Thoreau, Bonhoeffer, Hawthorne, C. Bronte, F. O'Connor, Lewis, Nouwen, Merton, Tillich, Wiesel, Camus, Poe, Vonnegut, Thich Nhat Hanh,
even writers of the darker side, sometimes immoral and unjust, such as Millay, Kerouac, Hemingway, Steinbeck, and Simmons?

Take time to consider: What authors have 'fathered' and/or 'mothered' you in your life?

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Guest post: CRISIS DIVIDE: The Righteous and the Woke--Why Evangelicals and Social Justice Warriors Trigger...

Guest Post on current CRISIS DIVIDE IN THE U.S.
The Righteous and the Woke – Why Evangelicals and Social Justice Warriors Trigger Me in the Same Way
by Valerie Tarico,
Seattle psychologist and writer.

"I was Born Again until nearly the end of graduate school, a sincere Evangelical who went to church on Sunday and Wednesday with my family and to Thursday Bible study on my own. I dialed for converts during the “I Found It” evangelism campaign, served as a counselor at Camp Good News, and graduated from Wheaton College, Billy Graham’s alma mater. I know what it is to be an earnest believer among believers.

"I also know what it is to experience those same dynamics from the outside. Since my fall from grace, I’ve written a book, Trusting Doubt, and several hundred articles exposing harms from Evangelicalism—not just the content of beliefs but also how they spread and shape the psychology of individuals and behavior of communities, doing damage in particular to women, children, and religious minorities.

It occurred to me recently that my time in Evangelicalism and subsequent journey out have a lot to do with why I find myself reactive to the spread of Woke culture among colleagues, political soulmates, and friends. Christianity takes many forms, with Evangelicalism being one of the more single-minded, dogmatic, groupish and enthusiastic among them. The Woke—meaning progressives who have “awoken” to the idea that oppression is the key concept explaining the structure of society, the flow of history, and virtually all of humanity’s woes—share these qualities.

To a former Evangelical, something feels too familiar—or better said, a bunch of somethings feel too familiar.

Righteous and infidels—There are two kinds of people in the world: Saved and damned or Woke and bigots, and anyone who isn’t with you 100% is morally suspect*. Through the lens of dichotomizing ideologies, each of us is seen—first and foremost—not as a complicated individual, but as a member of a group, with moral weight attached to our status as an insider or outsider. (*exceptions made for potential converts)

Insider jargon—Like many other groups, the saved and the Woke signal insider status by using special language. An Evangelical immediately recognizes a fellow tribe-member when he or she hears phrases like Praise the Lord, born again, backsliding, stumbling block, give a testimony, a harvest of souls, or It’s not a religion; it’s a relationship. The Woke signal their wokeness with words like intersectionality, cultural appropriation, trigger warning, microaggression, privilege, fragility, problematic, or decolonization. The language of the Woke may have more meaningful real-world referents than that of Evangelicals, but in both cases, jargon isn’t merely a tool for efficient or precise communication as it is in many professions—it is a sign of belonging and moral virtue.

Born that way—Although theoretically anyone is welcome in either group, the social hierarchies in both Evangelical culture and Woke culture are defined largely by accidents of birth. The Bible lists privileged blood lines—the Chosen People—and teaches that men (more so than women) were made in the image of God. In Woke culture, hierarchy is determined by membership in traditionally oppressed tribes, again based largely on blood lines and chromosomes. Note that this is not about individual experience of oppression or privilege, hardship or ease. Rather, generic average oppression scores get assigned to each tribe and then to each person based on intersecting tribal identities. Thus, a queer female East Indian Harvard grad with a Ph.D. and E.D. position is considered more oppressed than the unemployed third son of a white Appalachian coal miner.

Original sin—In both systems, one consequence of birth is inherited guilt. People are guilty of the sins of their fathers. In the case of Evangelicalism, we all are born sinful, deserving of eternal torture because of Eve’s folly—eating from the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden. In Woke culture, white and male people are born with blood guilt, a product of how dominant white and male people have treated other people over the ages and in modern times, (which—it must be said—often has been unspeakably horrible). Again, though, individual guilt isn’t about individual behaviors. A person born with original sin or blood guilt can behave badly and make things worse, but they cannot erase the inborn stain. (Note that this contradicts core tenets of liberal, humanist, and traditional progressive thought.)

Orthodoxies—The Bible is the inerrant Word of God. Jesus died for your sins. Hell awaits sinners. Salvation comes through accepting Jesus as your savior. If you are an Evangelical, doctrines like these must not be questioned. Trust and obey for there’s no other way. Anyone who questions core dogmas commits heresy, and anyone who preaches against them should be de-platformed or silenced. The Woke also have tenets of faith that must not be questioned. Most if not all ills flow from racism or sexism. Only males can be sexist; only white people can be racist. Gender is culturally constructed and independent of sex. Immigration is an economic boon for everyone. Elevating the most oppressed person will solve problems all the way up. Did my challenging that list make you think you might be reading an article by a conservative? If so, that’s exactly what I’m trying to illustrate.

Denial as proof—In Evangelicalism, thinking you don’t need to accept Jesus as your savior is proof that you do. Your denial simply reveals the depth of your sin and hardness of heart. In Woke culture, any pushback is perceived as a sign of white fragility or worse, a sign that one is a racist, sexist, homophobe, Islamophobe, xenophobe, or transphobe. You say that you voted for Barack Obama and your kids are biracial so your problem with BLM isn’t racism? LOL, that’s just what a racist would say. In both cultures, the most charitable interpretation that an insider can offer a skeptic is something along these lines, You seem like a decent, kind person. I’m sure that you just don’t understand. Since Evangelical and Woke dogmas don’t allow for honest, ethical disagreement, the only alternative hypothesis is that the skeptic must be an evildoer or bigot.

Black and white thinking—If you are not for us, you’re against us. In the Evangelical worldview we are all caught up in a spiritual war between the forces of God and Satan, which is playing out on the celestial plane. Who is on the Lord’s side? one hymn asks, because anyone else is on the other. Even mainline Christians—and especially Catholics—may be seen by Evangelicals as part of the enemy force. For many of the Woke, the equivalent of mainline Christians are old school social liberals, like women who wear pink pussy hats. Working toward colorblindness, for example, is not just considered a suboptimal way of addressing racism (which is a position that people can make arguments for). Rather, it is itself a symptom of racism. And there’s no such thing as a moderate conservative. Both Evangelicals and the Woke argue that tolerance is bad. One shouldn’t tolerate evil or fascism, they say, and most people would agree. The problem is that so many outsiders are considered either evil sinners or racist fascists. In this view, pragmatism and compromise are signs of moral taint.

Shaming and shunning—The Woke don’t tar, feather and banish sinners. Neither—mercifully—do Christian puritans anymore. But public shaming and trial by ordeal are used by both clans to keep people in line. Some Christian leaders pressure members into ritual public confession. After all, as theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “Nothing can be more cruel than the leniency which abandons others to their sin.” Shaming and shunning have ancient roots as tools of social control, and they elevate the status of the person or group doing the shaming. Maoist struggle sessions (forced public confessions) and Soviet self-criticism are examples of extreme shaming in social-critical movements seeking to upend traditional power structures. So, it should be no surprise that some of the Woke show little hesitation when call-out opportunities present themselves—nor that some remain unrelentingly righteous even when those call-outs leave a life or a family in ruins.

Selective science denial—Disinterest in inconvenient truths—or worse, denial of inconvenient truths, is generally a sign that ideology is at play. Most of us on the left can rattle off a list of truths that Evangelicals find inconvenient. The Bible is full of contradictions. Teens are going to keep having sex. Species evolve. The Earth is four and a half billion years old. Climate change is caused by humans (which suggests that God doesn’t have his hand on the wheel). Prayer works, at best, at the margins of statistical significance. But evidence and facts can be just as inconvenient for the Woke. Gender dimorphism affects how we think, not just how we look. Personal responsibility has real world benefits, even for people who have the odds stacked against them. Lived experience is simply anecdotal evidence. Skin color is often a poor proxy for privilege. Organic foods won’t feed 11 billion.

Evangelism—As infectious ideologies, Evangelicalism and Woke culture rely on both paid evangelists and enthusiastic converts to spread the word. Cru (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ) and related organizations spend tens of millions annually seeking converts on college campuses. But many outreach activities are led by earnest student believers. Critical Oppression Theory on campus has its epicenter in gender and race studies but has become a mainstay in schools of public health and law as well as the liberal arts. Once this becomes the dominant lens for human interactions, students police themselves—and each other. Nobody wants to be the ignoramus who deadnames a transgender peer or microaggresses against a foreign student by asking about their culture.

Hypocrisy—Christianity bills itself as a religion centered in humility, but countervailing dogmas promote the opposite. It is hard to imagine a set of beliefs more arrogant than the following: The universe was designed for humans. We uniquely are made in the image of God. All other creatures are ours to consume. Among thousands of religions, I happened to be born into the one that’s correct. The creator of the universe wants a personal relationship with me. Where Evangelicalism traffics in hubris cloaked as humility, Woke culture traffics in discrimination cloaked as inclusion. The far left demands that hiring practices, organizational hierarchies, social affinity groups, political strategizing, and funding flow give primacy to race and gender. Some of the Woke measure people by these checkboxes to a degree matched in the West only by groups like MRAs (Men’s Rights Activists) and white supremacists. The intent is to rectify old wrongs and current inequities–to literally solve discrimination with discrimination. One result is disinterest in suffering that doesn’t derive from traditional structural oppression of one tribe by another.

Gloating about the fate of the wicked—One of humanity’s uglier traits is that we like it when our enemies suffer. Some of the great Christian leaders and great justice warriors of history have inspired people to rise higher (think Desmond Tutu, Eli Wiesel, Vaclav Havel, Nelson Mandela). But neither Evangelicalism nor Woke culture consistently inspires members to transcend tribal vindictiveness because neither, at heart, calls members into our shared humanity. Some Christian leaders have actually proclaimed that the suffering of the damned in hell heightens the joy of the saved in heaven. Some of the Woke curse those they see as fascists to burn in the very same Christian hell, metaphorically if not literally. They dream of restorative justice for criminal offenses but lifelong, ruinous retribution for political sinners: Those hateful Trump voters deserve whatever destitution or illness may come their way. Unemployed young men in rural middle America are turning to Heroin? Too bad. Nobody did anything about the crack epidemic. Oil town’s on fire? Burn baby burn.

I know how compelling those frustrated, vengeful thoughts can be, because I’ve had them. But I think that progressives can do better.

Ideology has an awe-inspiring power to forge identity and community, direct energy, channel rage and determination, love and hate. It has been one of the most transformative forces in human history. But too often ideology in the hands of a social movement simply rebrands and redirects old self-centering impulses while justifying the sense that this particular fight is uniquely holy.

Even so, social movements and religions—including those that are misguided—usually emerge from an impulse that is deeply good, the desire to foster wellbeing in world that is more kind and just, one that brings us closer to humanity’s multi-millennial dream of broad enduring peace and bounty. This, too, is something that the Righteous and the Woke have in common. Both genuinely aspire to societal justice—small s, small j—meaning not the brand but the real deal. Given that they often see themselves at opposite ends of the spectrum, perhaps that is grounds for a little hope.


Note: In this article I didn’t address why, despite these discouraging social and ideological dynamics, I continue to lean left. In the frustration raised by excesses of Woke culture it is easy to lose sight of more substantive issues. Here is some of my list: The best evidence available tells us climate change is human-caused and urgent. Market failures are real. Trickle-down economics has produced greater inequality, which has been growing for decades. Inequality is a factor in social instability. Social democracy (the combination of capitalist enterprise with a strong social safety net) appears to have produced greater average wellbeing than other economic systems. Investments in diplomacy reduce war. Reproductive empowerment is fundamental to individual political and economic participation. The Religious Right more so than classical liberals control social policy on the Right. Government, when functioning properly, is the way we do things that we can’t very well do alone.

I would like to thank Dan Fincke for his input on this article, and Marian Wiggins for her generous editorial time."


Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington. She is the author of Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light and Deas and Other Imaginings, and the founder of Her articles about religion, reproductive health, and the role of women in society have been featured at sites including The Huffington Post, Salon, The Independent, Free Inquiry, The Humanist, AlterNet, Raw Story, Grist, Jezebel, and the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies. Subscribe at

Saturday, June 13, 2020

for ALL Humans--Left and Right, BLMers and Trumpers--"the line separating good and evil..."

FOR ALL HUMANS, left, right, BLM, Trumpers:
"...the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either -- but right through every human heart -- and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years.”

“If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being."

“In keeping silent about evil, in burying it so deep within us that no sign of it appears on the surface, we are implanting it, and it will rise up a thousand fold in the future. When we neither punish nor reproach evildoers...we are thereby ripping the foundations of justice from beneath new generations.”
― Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918–1956

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Stand up to Protect Little Girls in Egypt and other Nations from Fathers Who Mutilate

From BBC World News:
"The UN estimates that 200 million women and girls alive today have undergone some form of genital mutilation.

As much as 87% of Egyptian women and girls aged 15-49 have undergone FGM, according to a 2016 survey by the UN Children's Fund."

"It can cause lasting physical and mental trauma, including chronic infections, menstrual problems, infertility, pregnancy and childbirth complications."

This year,
"a man in Egypt who allegedly had female genital mutilation (FGM) carried out on his three daughters after tricking them, has been charged along with the doctor who performed the procedure.

The doctor went to the girls' house after their father told them they would receive a coronavirus "vaccination", Egypt's prosecutor-general said.

The girls, aged under 18, were drugged and the doctor cut their genitals.

FGM was made illegal in 2008 in Egypt but remains prevalent."

Read the rest of tragic story at BBC World News.
Photo from CNN

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Part 2: Living the Questions: Meta-Stories about Reality

Living the questions, without definitive answers--somewhat lost, unlike most humans who seem so sure they know what it's all about.

I’m lost...not lost in the sense of the religious pietistic term, not un-rescued in the moral sense...not blind to ethical and transcendent truths...not existentially estranged in the sense of not having hope in the future, not lost when it comes to moral realism.

No, I’m not lost in those common meanings—nor am I caught in destructive habits or delusions or nontheistic confusions.
Though I often find I don't live as good as I know I ought to do,
I do seek to do what is right. And I do often experience the Light,
have a sense of the Good, the True, and the Just.

In all of those, I am found.

No, how I am lost is
that I no longer have a vivid meta-story to identify with, a cosmic narrative.
I no longer have a sense why natural evils occur, such as Covid-19, cancer, etc.

About 10-15 years ago, I finally lost all hope in the Christian meta-story.
It turned out to be even at its best, an illusion. So I lost the philosophical
and theological understandings of my Christian worldview that I had thought
was a fairly stable foundation, despite my questions.

But the Christian meta-story turned out to be only many mirages, swirling sand that blew into a shifting Sahara of fading dunes. Besides, there were so many contradictory versions of what other humans claimed Christianity was!

Heck, most Christians claimed that Christians such as myself, who was one for 55 years, actually never were real Christians.

Furthermore, even all of those years as a Christian I never believed in their Creeds or their horrific concept of God.

But, finally, I realized, deeply, that I was trying to live a “true Scotsman” version of Christianity, one completely contrary to what most Christians claim. I realized down to the marrow of my bones that not even the Anabaptist/Quaker version of the Good News can be true.

I’m lost in that sense--from an intellectual standpoint. When in reflection, I step outside of my own personal commitment and try to see Life impartially and accurately, I have to admit that I don’t know the ultimate nature of Reality.

Unlike all of those who support various contrary versions of Christianity, those who claim they know that the meaning of existence is Islam, and those who claim to know that there is no god, etc., I am uncertain; indeed, never was “certain,” but now am very aware how little I know.

This is not the first time, I suddenly woke up lost--doubting my thinking and my perceiving, not knowing as much as I thought I knew when I was young.

Not long ago, about 10 years ago, I was sharing my spiritual struggles, a crisis I was in,
and one of my family joked “Oh Dan’s whole life has been one long spiritual crisis.”

And, in a sense, I suppose that is true as far as it goes:
from my earliest remembrances, I have—more than many—been the living human primate of “questions” far more than “answers.”

in process

Friday, May 15, 2020

"All things sick...evil great and small...foul": Covid-19 Virus and God

Jeremiah 14:11--16 "The YHWH said to me: “Do not pray for the welfare of this people.
Though they fast, I will not hear their cry,
and though they offer burnt offering
and grain offering, I will not accept them.
But I will consume them by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence.”

Many, many verses from the Christian Old Testament deeply stress and trouble humans. In the numerous readings through the entire of Bible, studying its various books in depth, listening to many sermons, and reading plenty of scholarly books, the great evil of such passages grows like a cancer within our moral selves.

Where in these vindictive, slaughtering, hate-filled parts of the Bible--that claim all natural evil and human evil are brought into being by God--is there the God of infinite love of the Good News, the God who never gives up on any human, the God who is the Good, the True, the Just, the Loving?

Then besides this textural hell, more and more Christian leaders--millions of them--emphasize these passages as central to Christinaity! They base their views in part by the study and promotion of Romans 9, the chapter which claims that God hates some humans, predestined billions of us to destruction and hell.

One famous Christian leader claims that God makes some humans "toilets" "spittoons."
Most state that all humans are "worthless," and "in essence, evil."
And so on...

Romans 9:
"11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— 12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay..."

Then there is the whole Augustinian doctrine of Original Sin.

Covid-19, the Black Plague, the Spanish flu, the Indian Ocean tsunami that slaughtered about 170,000, etc. all occurred because Adam and Eve disobeyed God. And God had foreordained their disobedience and punishment and that it would be inherited by all of the billions of infants conceived and born after them, over many thousands of years.

Even many Orthodox Jewish think that G-d created evil!
They quote Isaiah 45:7 "I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the YHWH do all these things."

And it gets worse....

Now many current Christian leaders are applying these doctrinal beliefs to the current pandemic, that Covid-19 has been sent by God to punish America, the world.

According to the latest poll, 2/3rds of religious people (American Christians, Jews, and Muslims) think God sent Covid-19 as a message to all humans. So even though hundreds of thousands of innocent people are suffering and dying, this pandemic is God's way of warning us.
--the poll is from the University of Chicago and NORC Center for Public Affairs, May 2020


Here's a parody/satire of Christian beliefS.
from Monty Python Contractual Obligations Album:

All things dull and ugly
All creatures short and squat
All things rude and nasty
The lord god made the lot

Each little snake that poisons
Each little wasp that stings
He made their brutish venom,
He made their horrid wings

All things sick and cancerous
All evil great and small
All things foul and dangerous
The lord god made them all
"Black Death, a mid-fourteenth century plague, killed 30 to 50 per cent of the European population in just five years. The pandemic was caused by the Yersinia pestis bacteria with millions dying from the disease in two major outbreaks. This image is of a plague pit in Marseille, France"

Each nasty little hornet
Each beastly little squid
Who made the spiky urchin
Who made the shocks... he did

All things scabbed and ulcerous
All pox both great and small
Putrid, foul and gangrenous
The lord god made them all

--Source: Musixmatch
Songwriters: John Du Prez / Eric Idle / Trad
All Things Dull and Ugly lyrics
© Python Monty Pictures Ltd.,
Emi Virgin Songs Inc

So in Summation what are the “Books” of Nature and the “Books” Library of the Bible Teaching Us Humans?

#1 At one extreme are the Augustinian-creedal Christians, Orthodox Muslims and Orthodox Jews most of whom claim that both sets of books accurately describe the will of the nature of Ultimate Reality—that God causes whatever happens to humans.

Their views is already briefly described in the first part of this reflection.


If it happens in nature or human history, then it is “God’s will.”

So, it is God’s will that Covid-19 happen.


To give God “glory,” “good pleasure,” to punish humans for failing to worship God.

#2 At the other extreme are the Naturalists, Materialists, and Atheists most of whom claim that there is no ultimate reality—that “God” or the “gods” are delusions of the human brain.

They state that there really is no good or bad, but only subjective morality, mere preferences, and that our preferences aren't really ours. We have them because it was determined by nature, the Laws of Physics, etc.

All of what appears to be horrific disasters, diseases, plagues, etc. including somewhat minor ones as Covid-19 aren’t even really "bad."

That judgment is only our subjective preference because we humans have a survival instinct instilled into us by natural selection. Besides, it was determined that that would happen because there is no free will and no moral responsibility.

"Free will" and "moral responsibility," according these thinkers, are delusions of the human brain that were determined to occur for who knows why. We humans don't choose our views or our actions.
We are "puppets" of nature.

Of course, why this happens, they state is for no reason.

So take your pick--God determined Covid-19 or the Laws of Nature/Big Bang determined it would happen.



*The Triumph of Death by Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1562)

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Review of Once Upon a Country, a Palestinian Autobiography by Sari Nusseibeh

Once Upon a Country by Sari Nusseibeh

Powerful autobiography and political history from one family’s perspective of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict of the 20th Century!
It restores my hope in Palestinians and makes me realize that the real problem in the Middle East (an elsewhere as well) isn’t any certain group of people, nor even any particular religion, but rather extremism, blind faith, and the dark side of human nature.

The central answer to intolerance is educated reason and the rejection of religious and political ideology!

I seem to have far more in common with this Palestinian, Sari Nusseibeh, than my own relatives for instance, more agreement with him than probably with anyone here on the Central Coast of California, where most people are fanatically supportive of the present administration of the U.S. and the Israeli government, and for various forms of creedal Christianity!

What Once Upon a Country also does is—despite Sari’s evident practical agnosticism and nominal faith—is restore confidence that we as humans can find hope and change despite the almost insurmountable problems and catastrophes of human history.

Sari communicates his life story and rational hopefulness and how he stood for nonviolence and reconciliation in the midst of intense hatred and violence, some even coming toward him and his family.

The book, too, again makes one cognizant of how much human destiny is affected by background, that while we do have some free creative choice (are morally responsible), some of us are better able to choose than others--
how upper class individuals who are bright and secularly educated, can have tremendous impact on their nations and the world, unlike average people who are more likely to be blinded by popular media and religious and political propaganda.

Part of the reason that Sari can be so rational and tolerant is that he comes from brilliant tolerant parents who sent him to England to be educated, where he earned his B.A. Then he earned his PhD in literature and philosophy in the United States at Harvard.

Such a background, while not guaranteeing moderation, hope, and nonviolence, certainly makes such moral qualities more possible than if he had grown up poverty-stricken in an intolerant family in Gaza with only a rudimentary education and filled with intolerant religious doctrines.

The extreme historical irony of reading this book is that Sari has been waging his nonviolent campaign for years yet the news never mentions it, but only the Palestinian extremists with bombs and Israeli settlers taking Palestinian land.

What if the international and U.S. news instead focused on Sari and other Palestinians’ peaceful protests and their efforts at education (such as Mars Elias Schools and Ramallah Friends School)?

This book has reignited my tremendous concern for Israel-Palestine. Thanks Sari!

In the Light of tolerance, education, and creativity,

Dan Wilcox

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Human Species: "All you are is a bag of particles..." Claims Atheist and Physicist Brian Greene

“All you are is a bag of particles acting out the laws of physics. That to me is pretty clear.”
Brian Greene

Like some other famous atheists, Greene in his new book, Until the End of Time, claims that humans don’t have “free will” because that ability would violate the laws of physics. Furthermore, there is no meaning to the cosmos.

Those aren't scientific statements but extreme philosophical claims. There are other astrophysicists who strongly disagree such as South African physicist and anti-Apartheid leader George Ellis.

IF we accept Greene's denial of free will, then think of the nature of the claim.
So when President Trump demeans, belittles, and name-calls other Americans, it’s not him bullying them, it’s the “laws of physics” doing that to other “bags.”

What’s also odd is that after making such extremely negative statements against human worth, against morality, against human creativity, etc. in the first half of Until, Greene appears to contradict himself later in his chapters on literature and other fields of study. In those, he writes of human creativity, marveling at what humans have achieved and the wonder of life.


IF all humans are only “a bag of particles acting out the law of physics” and determinism rules all, then like Sam Harris as claims human primates are only “biochemical puppets.”

Individual humans have achieved nothing but what cosmic strings yanked them into! So, the Germans didn’t choose to murder 10 million humans in concentration camps. They were forced by the laws of nature to do that.

Islamic State leaders didn’t choose to behead innocent civilians in the Middle East. That must happen because it was determined by the Big Bang.

According to these naysayers, the cosmos or evolution or nature or the Big Bang have lockstepped all of us humans to do whatever us “bags” do in this tragic life, this absurd existence.

Well, at least Greene didn’t compare us to “bacterium” or “scum” like two other famous scientists.


It is true as Greene says that at the quantum level, a human is in popular lingo, “moving particles.”
But that ISN'T all what he/she is.

In physics, this mug of coffee and the individual holding it are only particles, and at a higher level only a mixture of various chemicals.

BUT at a conscious rational level, it is a teacher, a morally responsible human getting ready to teach over one hundred teens during a creative but exhausting day at a high school in Santa Maria, California.

In the Light of what is True, Good, and Just,

Dan Wilcox

Friday, May 1, 2020

Friendly Poets' Short Poems of Wonder

Keswick Meeting room | British Quaker Meeting Houses/flickr CC

The spirit connects
Even when two are apart.
They ride the same wave.

--by Peter Rabenold

Read more by Peter Rabenold at

Midst thorns the cactus
Splurges its gorgeous blossoms
And allays our fears.

--by Peter Rabenold

first freeze--
a leaf on a film of ice
trickling water

by LA Quaker

To see more by LA Quaker go to

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Part 2: "Great Books" Reflective Questions on "The pennycandystore beyond the El"

Reflective "Great Books" Questions

The pennycandystore beyond the El
is where I first
fell in love
with unreality

1. Since candy store is 2 words in dictionaries, why are the 3 words pennycandystore run together as the starting line in this poem?

2. Why is the elevated train called the “El” instead of the El Train or even the Elevated Train?

3. Why does the poem emphasize that the pennycandystore is “beyond” the El?

4. Why is the place a "pennycandystore" where the speaker “first fell in love”?
Who is the speaker of the poem?

5. Why does he fall in love with “unreality”?

Jellybeans glowed in the semi-gloom
of that september afternoon
A cat upon the counter moved along
the licorice sticks
and tootsie rolls
and Oh Boy Gum

6. Why is the pennycandystore in “semi-gloom” rather than brightly lighted?

7. Why are “jellybeans’ mentioned first and why do they “glow”?

8. Why do the poem’s events take place on a “september afternoon”?

9. Why is there a “cat upon the counter” moving “along” the candy rows?

10. Why does the narrator speak of “licorice sticks,” “tootsie rolls” and gum?

11. Why is the gum singled out to be “Oh Boy Gum”?

12. Is there any significance in the details that “Oh Boy Gum”
advertisements in the 1920’s had this unusual image of an elf whispering in the boy's ear?

Why does the ad state that "It's pure"?

Another key point to ruminate on is that the poem in its original poetry book form is a concrete one where the lines are staggered so that the poem looks like its lines are falling leaves!

Outside the leaves were falling as they died

13. At this point, why does the narrator switch focus to outside of the pennycandystore, saying that the "leaves were falling as they died"?
Remember, Ferlinghetti has already said that it is "september."

A wind had blown away the sun

15. And then the next line speaks in extreme hyperbole and fantasy--that "a wind had blown away the sun"?

A girl ran in

16. Suddenly, after "a wind..." why does the focus shifts from objects back to a person, as it did in the 1st line, saying the speaker "fell in love with unreality"?

Her hair was rainy

17. Is this vivid metaphor describing the girl's hair literal or figurative-thematic OR both?

18. Before this, the speaker hadn't mentioned any rain or stormy weather, so why does he do so now?

Her breasts were breathless in the little room

19. This sexual image is shocking and unexpected! Before this sensuous image, one might expect that the girl is in elementary school since the boy is.
Why does this well-developed adolescent girl from outside enter now?

20. Why are her "breasts...breathless?
Of course on the plot level of the poem, it's because she was out of breath from running to get out of the bad storm and rain.
What emphatic meanings are in these 3 short lines?

21. Notice all of the near rhymes, alliteration, assonance, and other word play.
Here's an amazing graphic showing the sound structure of the poem from upinvermont

Outside the leaves were falling
and they cried
Too soon! Too soon!

22. Why are the "leaves...falling" "Outside" brought forth again?

23. Then another shocker--the narrator appears to use personification..."leaves were falling and they cried..." (like the rain?)

24. However, when one close-reads, the realization comes that the "they" aren't the "leaves" but the adolescent boy and girl!
Why are the leaves and the boy and girl associated with each other?

24. Of course, next is why do they cry, not only in the sense of weeping, but also as in shouting?

25. What is "too soon"?


Please add other possible questions, comments, or reflections in the response box below.

In the Light,

Dan Wilcox

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Review: Best and Worst of Ferlinghetti

Memory sometimes brings back wondrous experiences. This morning, I took a brief break from showing our 3-year-old grandson pictures of dinosaurs in my evolutionary biology textbook by Stephen Jay Gould (our gk is wild for dinosaurs like so many kids, including me 67 years ago:-).

As I glanced over some of our home library shelves, an early 60's book of poetry jumped into my mental lap. Wow, Ferlinghetti! However, it's one of his books I don't remember: Starting from San Francisco .

My memory flashed back to my university days in the late 1960's,
the best and worst of times--back when I hung out with Beats,
hippies (heck, I became a hippie, lived in Haight-Ashbury-SF
until my draft notice came:-), and other wild ones--many of us
radical activists, reading Aldous Huxley, Herman Hesse, and Jack Kerouac,
hitching and backpacking and protesting and attending love-be-in's,
going to poetry readings and rock clubs.

In my vivid poetic reminiscence is this poem:

The pennycandystore beyond the El
is where I first
fell in love
with unreality

Jellybeans glowed in the semi-gloom
of that september afternoon
A cat upon the counter moved along
the licorice sticks
and tootsie rolls
and Oh Boy Gum

Outside the leaves were falling as they died

A wind had blown away the sun

A girl ran in
Her hair was rainy
Her breasts were breathless in the little room

Outside the leaves were falling
and they cried
Too soon!
too soon!

--by Lawrence Ferlinghetti
from A Coney Island of the Mind
New Directions Paperback
purchased at City Lights Book Store, February 1967

At this point, I planned to speak of the poetic power and deep meanings of this amazing poem by Ferlinghetti, but now have instead decided to let the poem speak its wonder.

To quote Billy Collins, Poet Laureate of the U.S.,
"I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem's room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author's name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means."

--Billy Collins

What about the worst of Ferlinghetti? Turns out that the book I didn't remember, Starting from San Francisco, ought to have stayed abandoned/dumped on a shelf in our garage. Ferlinghetti, therein, has written so much drivel--vapid pages of dead prose, long lists of words that look like they were impulsive mouthings minus all that is poetic.

Later I will return and continue:-)

In the Light,

Dan Wilcox