Saturday, 5 July 2014

Patriotic Fourth of July Cake

Bake a cake they said. Put rockets on they said....
Source:  A Tampa FL radio station website

Friday, 4 July 2014

Hobby Lobby gets it wrong.

An American Company called Hobby Lobby placed a full page advertisement in our local Sarasota Herald-Tribune newspaper today.  I am certain that the same advertisement appeared in many other American newspapers.

You can read it here:

In my opinion the advertisement is a bit of “cherry-picking” in which Hobby Lobby  ( a privately held Company whose owners are Evangelical Christians)  strives to assert that the United States of America is a Christian nation.

Notwithstanding that that there is no such thing as a “Christian nation” (see this from an evangelical scholar)…..


Jonathan Merritt, an evangelical Christian writer and blogger for the Religion News Service, “……… arguing that conservative evangelicals shouldn’t call businesses “Christian” in the first place.

“The New Testament never—not one time—applies the ‘Christian’ label to a business or even a government,” he writes. “The tag is applied only to individuals. If the Bible is your ultimate guide, the only organization one might rightly term ‘Christian’ is a church. And this is only because a church in the New Testament is not a building or a business, but a collection of Christian individuals who have repented, believed on Christ, and are pursuing a life of holiness”…
With gratitude to Jonathan Merritt for his wisdom and clarity I turn your attention to the following assertion in the Hobby Lobby ad. This is what Hobby Lobby posted.

lied only to individuals. If the Bible is your ultimate guide, the only organization one might rightly term ‘Christian’ is a church. And this is only because a church in the New Testament is not a building or a business, but a collection of Christian individuals who have repented, believed on Christ, and are pursuing a life SUPREME COURT RULINGS “There is no dissonance in these [legal] declarations…These are not individual sayings, declarations of private persons: they are organic [legal, governmental] utterances; they speak the voice of the entire people…These, and many other matters which might be noticed, add a volume of unofficial declarations to the mass of organic utterances that this is a Christian nation.” Church of the Holy Trinity v. U.S., 1892”  Unanimous Decision Declaring America a Christian Nation.

The Hobby Lobby folks do not acknowledge that the author of this opinion, Justice Harry Brewer wrote the following in 1905

But in what sense can it be called a Christian nation? Not in the sense that Christianity is the established religion or that people are in any matter compelled to support it. On the contrary, the Constitution specifically provides that 'Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.' Neither is it Christian in the sense that all of its citizens are either in fact or name Christian. On the contrary, all religions have free scope within our borders. Numbers of our people profess other religions, and many reject all. Nor is it Christian in the sense that a profession of Christianity is a condition of holding office or otherwise engaging in public service, or essential to recognition either politically or socially. In fact, the government as a legal organization is independent of all religions. Nevertheless, we constantly speak of this republic as a Christian Nation--in fact, as the leading Christian Nation of the world. This popular use of the term certainly has significance. It is not a mere creation of the imagination. It is not a term of derision but has substantial basis--one which justifies its use.  (Justice Brewer 1905 explanation)

In other words his comments of 1892 reflected that the USA was a Christian Nation “de facto”, but not “de jure”.

Hobby Lobby is guilty of gross negligence in its advertisement and reportage of what this Associate Justice of the Supreme Court said.
Of course I have a decent respect for  Evangelical Christians. Some of my family members are beloved Christians in this honorable Evangelical traction.
But I get ancy when businesses such as Hobby Lobby  hi-jack the words of the founding fathers and Supreme Court Justices etc  to buttress  their  ideological convictions that America is a Christian (read Evangelical Christian) nation.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Merciless Indian Savages and the Fourth of July

As an American citizen by choice I make it my business to read the American Declaration of Independence on or about each Fourth of July.

It is a (mostly) noble,  brave and audacious statement, made by those who for the most part considered themselves to be British, but who chafed under the foolish and unjust laws of the British Monarch as they were applied in the thirteen colonies.

Of course the Declaration did not arise in a vacuum.  The framers were most likely aware of the Dutch Declaration of Independence

(see )

and the English Bill of Rights of 1689 (see )

Our Declaration, as I have said, is mostly noble, and brave, and even audacious.  It makes for great reading and deep thought and reflection.

That is until, referring to King George,  it says this.

"He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions".

Those words make me gag.

Quite apart from the hubris of saying our frontiers, (as if these "frontiers" had been negotiated in good faith with the original inhabitants of this part of North America) ---- quite apart from that -  the Declaration describes all the existing Indian Tribes/Nations with their great  wisdom, their wise governments, their deep spirituality, and their profound love of the earth as no more than Savages.

There you have it.  The colonists themselves had a colonialist mentality.

The cost of that colonialist mentality has been high:

1, American Indians have been forced into their trails of tears, and into "reservations" (That's a bone-chilling word).

2, Black Americans were ignored by the "Declaration"  (after all they were treated as less that fully dignified humans,  as slaves in all the thirteen colonies).

3. The colonialist American "westward expansion" wrought death and destruction upon those  of indigenous and Spanish heritage in the American south west (modern day Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California etc.).

Of course I love my adopted land.  And I think that, for the most part, the Declaration of Independence is a fabulous document.

But as a loyal American I am bound to point out the flaws in the Declaration:-  

flaws which led to later misery, pain, genocide  and death for American Indians, for the Slaves and their descendants, and for the Mexican/Spanish folks of the old West.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014


My good and blessed friend B. can no longer drive on account of his near blindness.

He recently e-mailed six of his good friends with a request that one of us would drive him to an appointment.  He added these words "I hate to be dependent".

I responded by saying that I and his other five friends like him so very  much,  that we are more than pleased to be asked to drive him hither, thither and yon, and that  we would do  so even if we did not like him!

I added:

"I too hate to be dependent  -  until  I remember I an dependent every single day. 

Water flows freely from my faucets, my home is supplied with electricity, and the trash and garbage are collected. Life would be entirely difficult or unmanageable without such services upon which I depend".

I could have added so much to this list of daily dependencies. For indeed our lives would be impossible without all those dependencies which we take for granted.


I know that these  dependencies (in truth they are inter-dependencies ) go against the grain of much of our "I did it my way"  culture.

But until I am able to dig my own well, or generate my own electricity, or recycle  my own trash, or grow my own food I will opt for the vision of inter-dependency  -----as opposed to the bogus ideology of rugged individualism.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Bogus and misleading advertisements

The American fast food chain "Steak 'n Shake" advertises

(1) Irresistible, thick, hand-dipped Vanilla Milk Shake made with real milk. Topped with whipped cream and a cherry

.(2) Hand-crafted Steakburgers

What in the world do those words "hand-dipped" and "hand-crafted" mean? 

I suggest that they are rather bogus words, designed to create the impression that the shakes and burgers are created with personal skill and artisanship, and are therefore of a higher quality. It's a bit of phony baloney - especially when we know that "Steak 'n Shake" burgers retail for about four bucks and that the shakes cost about three bucks.

Besides which  -  I don't want any grubby hands involved in dipping my milk shake, or "crafting" my burger!


"There's one sucker born every minute" is a common phrase which is wrongly attributed to P.T.  Barnum.

Barnum aside many Americans have been taken for suckers by the persistent suggestion that "Angus Beef" is the very best, and that any other types of beef are inferior.   'Taint  necessarily so!"

The Angus Beef Brand has been very successful in its mind control and mastery of the market.. But the truth is not so simple. 



We  are on the cusp of Independence Day.  It's a day on which I hoist the Stars and Stripes outside my home.

I do this as a sign of gratitude for all that is good and worthy in the American experiment.

I do this with a gentle patriotism which refuses to believe that other patriotisms are unworthy.

I do this in honour of all who "serve our country" -  the military of course, but also school-teachers, scientists, doctors and nurses in remote and rural communities, those who feed and clothe the desperately poor, and the  politicians, pundits, pastors and priests who call us to live up to our highest ideals.

With those high ideals in mind I become irked when "Old Glory" is used as an advertising symbol. I see this in Sarasota where the main Ford Automobile Dealership flies the biggest flag you could imagine, and often lines its forecourt with scores of American flags.

I say "leave our good flag alone as an adverting gimmick".  I will not buy a Ford because you fly the biggest flag.  I might buy a Ford on account of its reliability, cost, and efficiency. But I will avoid your dealership because you devalue our flag by turning it into an advertising symbol.

Monday, 30 June 2014

Andi Taylor and a cup of cold water,

My beloved colleague and friend the Revd.. Andi (Andrea) Taylor preached at St. Boniface Church on Siesta Key, Sarasota FL yesterday.'

The assigned gospel passage was Matthew 10:37-42.

Andi zoomed in in these words (attributed to Jesus)  from the gospel:

 "  42and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”

She reminded us that getting a cup of cold was no easy task in first century Palestine.  A person would have to go to a fast floating creek, or  to a very deep well to get cold water.

It was a good sermon which "spoke to my soul".

For you see ----  my extremely difficult and oft-times obnoxious neighbour  E is holed up in a Nursing Home down in Venice, some 20 miles from here.

You may remember that I discovered her "all sick and hallucinating" in another neighbors' driveway at 5:00 a.m. . back in early May, and that I called 911 so that our splendid SRQ  EMT's  could rescue her.

That they did, and then I took off  for my vacation in England and Norway.

Once I was back at home I began to think about E. 

My thoughts were remote and inquisitive. They were devoid of care or compassion ---  until I began to pay attention to Andi's sermon.

That was when I realised that I needed to follow the Gospel and  "share a cup of cold water" with my neighbour E.

I did so this morning.  E. was pleased to see me, and I did my best to be gracious to her.

It is not that I am a "good person".  Rather it is  that I feel a compulsion  to  be faithful to the teachings of Jesus in Matthew, i.e. to "take a cup  of cold water" in the name of  a disciple.

I took this "cup of water" to E. this morning. The gospel tells me that it should be in the name of a disciple.  So I did it in  the name of  Andi Taylor.

The Gospel also speaks of  the reward, but never specifies what that reward will be. 

In suggest that the reward is in the action. There is a lovely "reward"  in doing the right thing.

Thanks Andi!

Sunday, 29 June 2014

It's not that I am opinionated.

The Sarasota FL "Herald-Tribune" recently carried a photo' of some local high school athletes, females and males,  who were being honoured an some awards ceremony or another.
There they were in their best duds,  and smiling for the camera.  The pity was that the camera was too far way.  So we saw these eight or ten athletes being pictured from head to toe, when a head and shoulders shot would have been far more engaging.
What I mean is this:  The athletes themselves, their family members and friends their coaches were most likely not a bit interested in the various fashions on display.  What they wanted to be featured  was the smiling faces of these successful young adults.
It was an  example of unimaginative photography.
Here is another example.  It is a set piece photo' taken by a staff photographer on the MV Discovery.
The picture is "all very well", but it is hardly memorable. No-one is interested in  our feet!
When I framed the photo' I cut off the bottom half, and added a border. This is how it looks in its frame on my wall.  I suggest that this is a bit more attractive.
If only the photographer had zoomed in!
I suggest that when you take "set piece" (rather than candid)  photo's  of your friends and family members you might focus on head and shoulder views, rather than on full body shots.
Interesting photo's set a context.
  Here are two examples:

The main object is the boat  but the rest of the photo' sets the context.
Or this
It  is an early morning photo' of a mail boat. It "comes to life"  because of the misty mountains in the background. Maybe I should have zoomed in a bit more on the boat.
Some of my photo's included a bit of the ship.  This was to establish a perspective.
I did not have a great interest in the passengers on the  deck, but without them the photo' might have been a bit bland.
This is the island called "Flatholme" in the Bristol Channel. Would the picture have made sense if it had not included a bit of the ship?
At Noah and Zehra's wedding in Lynchburg VA on June 21st I was pleased to see Johanna Douglas who was a young child when I was the Rector at St. James's, Cambridge,
Here we are

That's nice enough but it does not convey my fondness for Johanna. 
So I asked the photographer to take another shot.  Here it is

In this one I chose to look at Johanna.  I hope that it conveys my love and admiration for this wonderful young woman.
I am opinionated, and I am by no means a good photographer.  But mostly I hope that you will consider other options for photo's, especially  that you will consider close up and/or  head and shoulders of your dear ones.
Once in a while we amateurs will get a good shot.  Thus I think is the case of my shot of the Queen Mary II in Bergen Harbour.