LifeWalk

______________________ LIFE, FAITH, ETCETERA

AL FRANKEN, GIANT of the SENATE July 10, 2017





Intelligent and knowledgeable, funny and insightful, and still a pretty good looking guy.

But enough about me.
Let’s talk about Al Franken and his latest book.

This is my 4th read by Franken.  It does not disappoint.  In fact, there’s something in its tone that, to me, seems to make it more accessible than his previous books.
It’s a memoir.  It’s humorous.  It’s a scathing expose. It’s an explanation of the mechanics of government. And, ultimately, a book of hope.

We shown portions of Al’s childhood, we go through the years of his SNL involvement, and are brought up to date with his experience as a Senator from Minnesota.
And there are a lot of cool photographs.
One of his previous book titles can really be applied to all of his books: “The Truth (with Jokes).”  All of his books are filled with researched, notated, verifiable facts.  They also have many laughs (and some occasional groans). It’s hard to find reading that both entertains and educates as much as a book by Al Franken

[Although many of them are short, there are 47 chapters here.  So I won’t be doing a chapter-by-chapter review (as I have for some books).]

Early on Franken tells us “Why I’m a Democrat.”  “Civil rights, our parents taught us, are about basic justice.  And when the news would be full of southern shefiffs truning firehoses, dogs, and nightsticks on demonstrators, my dad would point to the TV and [say] ‘No Jew can be for that!’ Opportunity is supposed to be for everyone.  And that’s why I’m a Democrat.”

Later, of course, we get into Al’s run for Senate.  An excruciating election that resulted in a 8-month (plus) recount!
Then we gain a whole lot of information about the inner workings of our government.

“My Republican Friends” is an interesting chapter.  Al actually has many friends who are Republicans. And he has some positive things to say about Republicans in general. Part of his job is “looking for opportunities to find common ground.”  But, being a Senator means having to make friends with people you’re fighting against, and fighting “with every fiber of your being” against people you are friends with.

We also learn of Al’s relationship to addiction.  Al managed to never become an addict. “There but for the grace of God go I” he says. But he had to deal with his wife’s alcohol addiction, his best friend’s chemical addiction, as well addictions of celebrity friends like Belushi and Farley.  “Addiction can take an unimaginable toll on the people who love addicts.”

The 3 chapters about SNL also discuss Comedy Central, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and a show Al did called “Indecision ’92.”  And were brought to face the fact that “comedy broadcasts” are often one of the most reliable sources for truth in news.  This is also the time-frame where “Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot and Other Observations” is written, and “shot to number one on the New York Times bestseller list.”

There’s a chapter on healthcare.  The lies, misinformation and obstruction from the Republicans on this issue is amazing.  They fought and fought to stop it.  Once it became law they’ve fought and fought to repeal it.  Sadly, it’s looking like they may have a chance now.  “Republicans have voted more than sixty times to repeal the law.  They had offered zero plans to replace it.”  And of course the “plans” they have offered recently haven’t even met with approval from their own party.  That’s because, for all their talk, they’ve never been interested in the “replace” part.  Just repealing any progress made by President Obama.

Another chapter discusses education.  Which, with DeVos running the department, our children are in genuine trouble.  But before Betsy, once again, “Even as we were finding ourselves in agreement on what we needed to do, Republican leadere were working to prevent us from actually doing it.  McConnell’s goal was almost always to stop Obama and Senate Democrats from getting thing done, to prevent us from having achievements we could point to.”

In addition to health care and education, there’s a discussion on climate change. “Virtually everyone in the world believes that climate change is real and is caused by human beings, except Republicans. [They] know that if they concede that global warming is real, the Koch brothers will spend money against them.

“The Angel and the Devil” looks at the very important topic of discrimination. “Growing up, my kids read in history books about a time in our country when it was perfectly legal to fire somebody or refuse to hire somebody because they were black or a woman.  For them it was a concept they couldn’t understand.  I hope that my future grandkids will only read about when it was legal to fire someone because they’re gay or transgender.”

Ted Cruz gets an entire chapter devoted to him.  “Here’s the thing you have to understand about Ted Cruz.  I like Ted Cruz more than most of my other colleagues like Ted Cruz.  And I hate Ted Cruz.”

On Trump: [He] quickly showed that he had no knowledge about the details of public policy… no interest in learning the details of public policy… [and] actively scornful of learning.  “I know more that the generals,” he would say.  No, idiot – you don’t.

We have insights and stories about McConnell, President Obama, Hillary Clinton, George W. Bush, The horribly insanely greedy and uncaring Koch brothers, Perry Mason (?!?) and more.
Franken has a lot of stories about learning how to be a Senator and about how important all his staff are: The research, the guidance and critiques they offer.  Switching careers from comedy writer (excuse me, “satire” writer) to serving as a Senator had a huge learning curve.  He allowed his staff to gently let him know if he was crossing the line, such as the time when one staffer slipped him a subtle note: “You’re being an asshole.”  So, Al’s humor often takes aim at Al, as well as others.  And he give his wife, Franni, credit for saving his campaign.  “There is no question that I would have lost the election if Franni had not [did what she did].”

As humorous and entertaining as this book is, the seriousness of the issues is intense.
This is information every American needs to have. The future of your children and grandchildren is literally in jeopardy right now!
If you vote, you need to read this book!  (And if you don’t vote, well…)

 

 

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

Some Quotes:

  • Between 25 to 40 percent of Americans have a severely distorted view of how government and politics are supposed to work.
  • We all do better when we all do better
  • My wife and I have a division of labor.  Basically it’s this: Franni’s in charge.
  • McConnell and his friends constantly blamed Obama for the partisanship of the Obama years, managing to suppress their giggles all the while.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

  • Until John Belushi’s death, we at SNL didn’t really understand that drugs can kill you.  But by the time Chris Farley got in trouble, we at the show understood all too well.
  • Abortion services make up (only!) 3 percent of what Planned Parenthood does. [Planned Parenthood, through many of their services, does more to prevent abortions than anything those against it have ever come up with!!!  Just sayin’.]
  • Half of all bankruptcies in America were tied to a medical problem.
  • Under Trump, we should probably prepare for the worst.  This is going to suck for a while.  But not forever.
  • Just because we’re out of power doesn’t mean we abdicate our responsibility to try to improve people’s lives.  That’s what makes us Democrats.  It’s what makes us worth electing in the 1st place.

Also read: “Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them.”


NOTE: If you are a right-wing friend or family member, and would be willing to read this book, even if it’s to “find fault,” let me know and I will (as finances allow) try to get a copy to you!

 

The Idolatry of God February 14, 2013



“There is a fire inside the building.
Please remain calm and step inside.”
idolatry


The Idolatry Of God
– Peter Rollins




– The Apocalypse isn’t Coming, It has Already Arrived. –
          Thus the adventure begins.


They say that (especially for those of us who are “youth-challenged”) one of the best ways to help prevent the decline of mental capacities is to actively use the brain by learning new things.
Simply put: THINK.  And think new thoughts.
In that context, a Rollins book is just what the doctor ordered.   Reading  “The Idolatry of God” is spiritual LASIK.  Here, however, the surgery is never finished.  Even if we don’t see everything the way Peter does, the adjustment continues to change the very nature of our spiritual vision.

The sub-title to this book is “Breaking Our Addiction To Certainty and Satisfaction.” I think it could also have been sub-titled, “Insurrection: Part Deux.” A number of the ideas expounded upon here were initially raised in “Insurrection.” While each book stands on it’s own merit, thy make a lovely couple.
🙂

It may be hard for some to conceive as to how one can “idolize” God.  Nevertheless, this book declares that’s predominantly just what “Christianity” has done.
“We have turned God into just another product to provide for our personal satisfaction.  A cosmic vending machine that promises answers and an escape from eternal suffering.”
The truth is, no matter what our vision of God is, that vision is never God.

There are three sections to “The Idolatry Of God:”
The Old Creation, The New Creation, and The New Collective.

Section One.

Early on, we read about how infants undergo two births.  The second of these is where “the infant begins to identify as existing in separation from her surroundings and slowly begins to experience herself as an individual.”
This information becomes important in the discussion of our sense of separation, and in turn, our feelings of being incomplete.

I love how Peter finds truth wherever truth can be found. He references works like “Austin Powers,” “Mission Impossible III,” and “The Walking Dead.”  In chapter one Mr. Rollins discusses a phrase made popular by Alfred Hitchcock: The “MacGuffin“.   A MacGuffin can be anything, and the point is not what it is, but that it has some assigned value, and it is wanted and desired, even if what it is is not known. OK, that may not make much sense on it’s own, but within the pages of this book, it initiates some amazing thought processes.

This leads to a discussion of “Original Sin.”
Finally, after 58 years, I’ve read an approach to Original sin that makes sense.  The church often says “sin simply means separation from God,” but then turns to endless discussions of “sins” instead of “sin.”  The focus is on what is and isn’t a “sin.”  This, of course, would vary from person to person, church to church, decade to decade. It all became an issue of what one could or couldn’t do, and still “remain” a Christian. I now find all of that laughably ridiculous, and simultaneously quite sad.  The end result is a “sin management” system, and any meaningful concept of Original sin is lost.

Chapter two has a visual recreation of the standard line drawing used in many evangelical tracts.  It’s the one with the stick figure on one side of a chasm, and GOD on the other.  You’ll know it when you see it.  We see why this entire approach to understanding our reality misses the point entirely.  “Instead of seeing Christ as the apocalyptic destruction of this whole approach…these diagrams obscure the truth by calling the Idol ‘God.'”

Chapter three reaps wisdom from the 23rd chapter of Matthew, and from “Miami Vice.”  We expand on a concept introduced in “Insurrection:”   I wear a mask that looks like me.  We look at the masks we “are,” and the mythologies (political, cultural, religious) that create and feed our life stories.  The church, in large part, does not confront these mythologies, but rather blesses them.

Chapter four brings us the “Zombie Apocalypse,” the “radical message of the cross,” and great insight into the Temple curtain being torn during the Crucifixion.  I loved the revelation of “what’s behind the curtain.” This is good stuff!

Section Two.

One of my favorite parts was chapter 5, “Trash of the World.”

We explore how a Christian “identity” is actually the setting aside of all identities.
We look at divisions that were thought to be a “natural” part of the world during Paul’s life:
Religious identity (Jew/Gentile),
Political identity (slave/free), and
Biological identity (male/female).
We then look at how the “sword” Christ says he brings divides those who may, in fact, believe the same things, while bringing unity to those who’s beliefs may be markedly different. A person’s enemies are now those of their own tribe.  The graphics in the book help clarify the new division of non-division.

Chapter Six covers material like “renewing of your mind,” “freedom from the obsessive drive for that which we (falsely) believe will make us complete,” “Christ as Fully God,” and more insights into the Crucifixion.

Section Three.

Chapters Seven through Nine.

We’re shown some new ways of being church.   Ways of facing our addiction to certainty.  Ways of interacting with the “other.”  And, of great importance, seeing ourselves the way others see us.
There are some really good ideas here. These ideas are not just theory, but ones that have been put into practice by the author and/or people he knows.
I would participate in these practices, but I don’t know that I would initiate them.  Whether or not you use these ideas, they can spur you on to come up with your own ideas. These certainly are some unique methods of encounter.

We also look at how, sadly, the existing “church” does not confront or challenge the Idolatry spoken of in these pages. Rather, the church reinforces the Idolatry.  Actually, it thrives on it.  The modern church would, to a great degree, not exist without it.  Not in it’s current form.
(I like the title of Chapter Eight:  “Destroying Christianity and other Christian Acts.”)

Oh.  Also in chapter 7, Peter critiques the “Confessional” scene in “Blue Like Jazz.”  I understand him, and for the most part agree with his criticism.  However, I still believe the realizations made through that type of process are powerful, and for many (most?) Christians, a necessary point at which to arrive before being able to move on.  It’s like not being able to get from A to H without going through E.  (And personally, I still love the movie.  Not everyone will.)

I tell ya, one sure-fire way to know that a book, author, singer, poet, etc. has something the church probably needs to hear is if those who claim to speak for the church call it heresy. [Challenge power, and power pushes back.]
This book is no exception. Peter (like Rob, Brian, Anne, Spencer, Phyllis, and others) is, in my estimation, a modern day prophet. Not in some weird, supernatural concept of the word, but in a real-life, get-back-to-basics, kind of way.
A way that calls us out of the Babylon of Christianity, and back to the way of Christ.

– df

—————



Buy The Book.  Click HERE.

Also read: “Insurrection,” and
The Orthodox Heretic.”

Quotes:

– What if Christ does not fill the empty cup we bring to him but rather smashes it to pieces, bringing freedom, not from our darkness and dissatisfaction, but freedom from our felt need to escape them?

– All our religious narratives are but ash before the all-consuming fire of divine mystery.

– [Holing on to the] Idolatrous form of faith, [you] will be tempted to embrace that huge industry dedicated to conferences, worship concerts, and traveling apologists.

– The Good News of Christianity: You can’t be fulfilled; you can’t be made whole; you can’t find satisfaction.

Buy The Book.  Click HERE.

–  Instead of God being that which fills the gap at the core of our being, the God testified to in Christianity exposes the gap for what it is, obliterates it, and invites us to participate in an utterly different form of life, one that brings us beyond slavery to the Idol.

– [Paul] understood that the prohibition of the law does not cause one to renounce an object, but rather fuels a self-destructive drive for it.

– People tend to think that the Law and sin existed on opposite ends of a spectrum… they actually are intertwined and exist on the same side.

Buy The Book.  Click HERE.

– All the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves have a fictional quality.

– Religious leaders are actually lying, first and foremost, to themselves.

– We are all tempted to fall into the same trap as these religious teachers whom Jesus chastised.

– Love fulfills the law…by raising us into a different register where we live beyond the prohibition.
… while not everything is beneficial, everything is permissible.
[This revelation to me, long before reading this book, was a wonderful breakthrough.  I am no longer obsessed with what things are “sins,” and what are not.  I now ask myself, “Is this the smart thing to do?  Is this the best path to travel?  Is this beneficial?”  So the writing here, as so often seems to happen, confirmed a work already being accomplished within me.]

Buy The Book.  Click HERE.

– Original Sin and the Law are obliterated and the Idol they create dissolves into thin air.

– [This is very good.]  More often than not, the reasons we reject another arise after the actual rejection.

– Christianity is not a singular, monolithic, unchanging belief system but a fluid tradition that is always interrogating itself.

– Love is the crazy, mad, and perhaps ridiculous gesture of saying yes to life.

Buy The Book.  Click HERE.

 

 
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