Wednesday, December 26, 2007

What I’m Reading: The World Without Us

The World Without Us. Alan Weisman. New York: Harper Collins, 2007.

American journalist Alan Weisman has written a brilliant and disturbing meditation on the fate of humanity and the fate of the world. Call it a work of non-fiction, call it a thought-experiment, call it speculative science, but this book calls upon the expertise of archaeologists, naturalists, urban engineers, artists and many other professions to answer a provocative question. What would the world be like if the entire human race disappeared?

The answer may be surprising to some, and unsurprising to others, such as gardeners, who try to keep nature at bay on a daily basis. Thinking ahead over a variety of time scales, Weisman predicts that nature, with its vast resilience, would come back to reclaim the world. Without us, in a few years, our farms, engineered crops and domestic animals would vanish. In decades, our homes would succumb to weather and begin to collapse. In centuries, our great cities and bridges would fall. In millennia, there would only be the faintest traces of our civilisation.

Weisman has found places in the world where this process of reclamation can already be seen. The Demilitarized Zone between the Koreas and a strip of forest between Poland and Belarus harbour trees and animals that have vanished elsewhere. In Varosha, a resort town on Cyprus abandoned after the Greek and Turkish war of 1974, buildings are vanishing and animals are returning. “Flame trees, chinaberries, and thickets of hibiscus, oleander, and passion lilac sprout from nooks where indoors and outdoors now blend. Houses disappear under magenta mounds of bougainvillaea. Lizards and whip snakes skitter through stands of wild asparagus, prickly pear, and six-foot grasses. A spreading ground cover of lemon grass now sweetens the air. At night, the darkened beachfront, free of moonlight bathers, crawls with nesting loggerhead and green sea turtles” (p. 97).

The good news in this book is that the sheer resilience of nature may be greater than our capacity to destroy the earth. The great sadness of the book is that humanity will most likely do yet more damage before we either learn better or go extinct ourselves in a collapse caused by human greed and runaway population growth. Weisman’s descriptions of these remaining natural gems such as the Polish primeval forest are heartbreaking for their beauty and their fragility. If the Koreas were to unify, developers of the suburbs already pushing towards the DMZ would want to claim this land where red-crowned cranes, among the rarest on earth, still find refuge.

For anyone who cares about the fate of the earth, as the scientists and naturalists he interviews so clearly do, there is the understandable temptation to see the premise of Weisman’s thought-experiment, the removal of humanity, as a desirable solution. The most extreme example of this mindset is the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement (VHEMT), which would prefer us to gracefully exit the stage by an end to breeding rather than extinguish ourselves in resource wars and starvation. In this scenario, a genteel version of the end described in P.D. James’ The Children of Men, the last human beings would end their days caring for the earth as a retiree might dedicate themselves to a garden. “The last humans could enjoy their final sunsets peacefully, knowing they have returned the planet as close as possible to the Garden of Eden” (p. 243). An extreme solution, admittedly, but in the musings of esteemed biologists such as E.O. Wilson, as they engage with Weisman’s thought experiment, there is a wistful tone. “The world”, Wilson speculates, “would mostly look as it did before humanity came along. Like a wilderness” (p. 190).

Weisman, to his credit, avoids the trap of seeing humanity as the problem and our removal as the solution. He is too much in love with the beauty and surprise of the world, and a future where there is no one left to appreciate its beauty is clearly painful to him. He is clear however, as other environmentalists are, that there is only a little time left, a few centuries at most, for us to have a future on the earth. His proposed solutions are few, but one that he advances with some conviction is a proposal by the Vienna Institute of Demography that would see every fertile woman having only one child. In this scenario, world population, currently at 6.5 billion, would begin to fall off at the middle of the 21st century, reaching 1.6 billion by 2100. By comparison, a UN scenario where the birthrate is assumed to slightly over 2 children per female (it was 2.6 in 2004) sees the world’s population reaching 9.5 billion by 2060. Weisman does not speculate whether this second scenario (he does not discuss worse ones) is sustainable, though he is not encouraging. In his preferred scenario of a depopulated world, there is the hope the lucky 1.6 billion who remain would enjoy an Edenic world without self-suicide as a species.

At such far-more-manageable numbers, however, we would have the benefit of all our progress plus the wisdom to keep our presence under control. That wisdom would come partly from losses and extinctions too late to reverse, but also from the growing joy of watching the world daily become more wonderful. The evidence wouldn’t hide in statistics. It would be outside every human’s window, where refreshed air would fill each season with birdsong” (pp. 272-273).

Weisman, who would describe himself as a spiritual person (his final chapter is entitled “Coda: Our Earth, Our Souls”) grounds his spirituality in a Gaia-centered sense of balance with the world, where our artistic and creative expressions can be admired by future human generations rather than be puzzled over by future visitors to our dead world. He is dismissive of mainstream religion as being committed to “alternate futures” which have no commitment to the fate of the world. His brief comments on Christianity seem limited to acquaintance with dispensationalist, “left-behind” theology. “In Christianity”, he writes disdainfully, “the Earth melts, but a new one is born. Since it needs no sun – the eternal light of God and the Lamb having eliminated night – it’s clearly a different planet from this one” (p. 270).
For Christians who care about the world’s future, however, there is much to learn and admire from this book. Those of us who take the doctrine of creation seriously (even if we understand creation to have occurred in geologic time rather than in a literal seven days), we have a theological imperative to care for the planet just as fiercely as the most atheistic naturalist. As for the fate of the world, rather than adopt a simplistic understanding of Revelation as Weisman’s “different planet” throwaway does, there are fruitful lines of inquiry for Christians to pursue. One example is N.T. Wright’s lectures on the fate of creation from Romans 8, in which the world awaits, groaning, for its redemption. Rather than using up and throwing away a depleted old world, might not God’s new heaven and new earth be a restored and redeemed place, where human sin, including its environmental ravages, are cured? Weisman’s references to an Edenic world ring especially true for Christians. After all, the doctrine of creation teaches us that God intended Eden for a purpose, to be the home of all creatures, including humanity. In this respect, Weisman’s book is a gift for Christian thought and action.

An Anglican Ministry to Homeless Veterans in Pittsburgh

Troubled veterans find heavenly haven at Shepherd's Heart
By Mike Wereschagin
Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The softly-lit, green-hued hallway is quiet and warm, and the 10 men inside their rooms are safe for the moment.

Only memory can get to them here.

The Rev. Michael Wurschmidt walks slowly past the closed doors, a sentry in cleric's clothing.

Read the whole article

Troops Absences Tough on Holiday Traditions

By Brian Hicks
The Charleston Post and Courier, Tuesday, December 25, 2007

They say it's the most wonderful time of the year, but there are some who might feel otherwise.

It's impossible to pick them out of a crowd. They're shopping at the mall, stopping by neighborhood Christmas parties with their kids, decorating their homes in red, white and blue lights.

But while most of us spend Christmas with our friends and families, they are separated from theirs by oceans, entire continents

Read the whole article

Monday, December 10, 2007

A Sermon for the Second Sunday of Advent

Preached on Sunday, 9 December, 2007, at Grace Church, Ilderton and St. George’s, Middlesex Centre

“The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.” (Isaiah 11:8)

This Friday I watched a toddler taking those first steps that bring a thrill of pride to every parent. One of his shoes had gone missing, and he had a runny nose, but those confident steps across the hall and that little turn in the middle had all the beauty of Wayne Gretzky on a breakaway. Wasn’t it just yesterday that I baptized this little guy, I thought? Now he’s upright and moving and that Christmas tree in the church hall may be safe from his explorations. And so it begins, one of those moments when we let our children take their first steps into the world of risk and danger. Those first steps will lead to independence and maturity, with a few bumps and scars along the way.

A few hours earlier on that same day, another family, also connected to this parish, learned that their son had just been killed in a traffic accident. A young man with his life ahead of him, all that potential, taken away from us in a few seconds. While others will enjoy the festive times and reunions ahead, those who knew and loved him will know dark and bitter days this Christmas. At some point they will be thinking, wasn’t it just yesterday that he took his first steps, said his first words, took his first driving lesson? And, as we would in their shoes, they will likely ask, how can God allow such a world of risk and danger?

This Sunday, the second week of Advent, we hear in the powerful words of Isaiah a vision of how God wants to change the world. “The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.” (Isaiah 11: 8). This morning, in the midst of the shock and grief of parents, families, and parish friends, scripture speaks of a world where we need no longer fear for our children. We hear of a world freed of menace and danger, where death or injury can’t strike at the deepest and most vulnerable places of our hearts.

These are words of hope, but what sort of hope do they represent? Is this peaceable kingdom that Isaiah talks about merely “over the rainbow” talk, a sweet vision of paradise in the sweet by and by, but with only the faintest comfort for our hope and fear? But is it just possible that this a robust hope worth hoisting aboard, a real promise from a real God who means what he says?

If you watch the Discovery channel or animal documentaries on TVO, you know that the wild kingdom can be shockingly wild. A cute little penguin can be swimming in the water and can be seized by a seal, which is in turn torn apart by a killer whale or polar bear. This is nature “red in tooth and claw” as Tennyson once described it. Nature shows constantly remind us not to be na├»ve about nature, but we find in the Bible a similar clear-eyed realism (I owe this insight to some online exegesis by Frederick Geiser). The Psalmist describes how "The young lions roar for their prey, seeking their food from God" (Psalm 104:21). How do we get from hear to the idyllic kingdom that Isaiah describes?

When Isaiah wrote his vision of a peaceful kingdom, it was a time of violence and fear. Israel in the eighth century BC was besieged by the Assyrian empire. The great kingdom that King David had built was in danger of being destroyed completely, which explains Isaiah’s reference to David’s father, Jesse, as the “stump of Jesse”. Like that old tree that until this winter stood outside Grace Church, Israel was in danger of becoming nothing more than a remnant and a memory. And so Isaiah looked not to a human rescuer, because he knew how fragile and how fallible humans were, but rather Isaiah looked to God and the one who God would send, the Messiah.

One of the great themes of Advent is hope – like Isaiah, we express the hope that God will be the Messiah, the one who comes to save and deliver his people. If you remember how a Carols and Lessons service works, one of the first stories we hear is the story of Genesis and the consequences of humanity’s decision to walk apart from God. In Genesis 3, God says that Adam can no longer eat from the fruit of paradise. Instead, ’ “cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field (Gen 3:17-18). That same story from Genesis is picked up in one of our favourite Christmas carols, “Joy to the World”, in the third verse:

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessing flow
Far as the curse (or “our sin”) is found. (Common Praise #154).

Another hymn that we sang last week expresses the same Advent hope that God will come to rescue his people:
O come, O come, Emmanuel,
and ransom captive Israel;
that mourns in lonely exile here,
until the son of God appear.

Who is the one who will come and save us? Isaiah seems to speak of a great king and hero, who will strike the earth and blow away the wicked . But when that hero’s work is done, and when the wolf and the lamb are lying down together, who do we see in the midst of this seen of peace but “a little child”? Who is it we wait for in a few weeks but a “little child” lying in a manger in the midst of animals, adored by kings and shepherds? It’s a deceptively peaceful image, because that child is born into a world of great danger. Again we remember the wisdom of the old carols, for as the Coventry Carol reminds us,

Herod, the king,
In his raging,
Charged he hath, this day,
His men of might
In his owne sight
All yonge children to slay.

The Holy Family will flee in the night as countless refugees have done since then, Herod’s soldiers commit an atrocity, leaving families to weep and mourn their children. This incident is part of Matthew’s nativity story too: “A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more” (Matthew 2:18). Mary herself, years later, would also weep mother’s tears as they lowered her son down from the cross and gave him to her for burial.

The wisdom and the realism of Christmas is that Emmanuel, God with us, comes to share our life and our world with us as it is. It is a world of beauty but also a world of pain and sorrow, still the world of the curse that Adam and Eve were sent into, still the world of nature red in tooth and claw. But giving his son to be born into the world is God’s first step to say to us, “I am with you, you are not alone”. The coming of Emmanuel, our Christmas ransom, begins with the news that God comes to be with us. That same message is picked up in today’s gospel, in the words of John the Baptist. John calls us to come back to repent and come back to God, but when Jesus comes down to the Jordan he will not come as a terrifying judge but he will come to share a common baptism with us. Once again we see Emmanuel, God with us.

How and when will the world finally be changed? How will the ground be freed, finally, of thorns and weeds? When will the lion and the lamb lie down in peace? When will our children be able to walk without fear, their safety and our hearts no longer vulnerable? These things are ultimately for God to grant, and they start to come into focus at Easter and the resurrection, but they begin, I think, with us. In Isaiah’s vision there is work for God’s people to do. Isaiah reminds us of the poor in our midst, he reminds us to deal with one another in equity and compassion and righteousness. Isaiah calls us to live in peace, to live in the knowledge of God and of his word. Likewise John the Baptist calls us to turn away from our old lives and live as God’s people and bear good fruit. This is the work that Advent calls us to, this is the work and the way of life that God calls his church to do. May we always remember as we wait, no matter how dark and how painful it may get, that God is truly with us. Amen.

©Michael Peterson+ 2007

Monday, December 3, 2007

A Sermon for the First Sunday of Advent

Preached 2 December, 2007 at Grace Church, Ilderton and St. George’s, Middlesex Centre

“Therefore you must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.” (Matthew 24:44)

More than anyone I ever met, my mother loved Christmas carols. She loved them so much that she would walk down the sidewalk singing them out loud – in August! Needless to say, that caused me some embarrassment when I would go out with her as a boy. One of her favourites was the Advent hymn, “People, Look East!” that our choir sings as an anthem today. Another one that she loved to sing was the traditional “Christmas is coming”. She loved to make up silly lyrics to these songs, which made it even more embarrassing for me, but deep down I think my mother loved the joy and anticipation of these carols. My mother was willing to wait for Christmas. She didn’t sit and wait, because there was plenty to do – baking, decorating, church work, visiting – but essentially she was willing to wait. She knew what was coming, she knew what it meant, and the time in between was a time to be savoured and enjoyed.

Some people aren’t keen on waiting for Christmas. There’s been a debate behind the scenes about tonight’s service of Carols and Lessons at Ilderton United. Some felt that the carols should be the carols of Advent, with their focus on waiting, preparing, expecting. Others felt that we should sing the Christmas carols that people know, love, and don’t get to sing enough, and they carried the day. So tonight if you go, you will hear and sing favourites such as “In the Bleak Midwinter” and “Angels from the Realms of Glory”, and that’s fine. I think that in these kinds of disputes, the host is always right, and I think it’s important that our churches come together in worship and witness as God’s people. But I do think that the Advent hymns, despite their unfamiliarity to many, have much to teach us. The hymns of Advent, along with the season’s rituals such as the Advent candle, and the scripture readings with their emphasis on expectation, are all designed to help us prepare for the coming of that special visitor, the Son of God. In all its forms, Advent has one purpose – to prepare us for the coming of God.

How do we feel about the coming of this visitor? What might his entrance into our lives look like? Is it cause for joy, or does it make us nervous? Our readings today might cause a variety of reactions. First we heard Isaiah’s prophecy, the classic Advent promise of light in the darkness. The prophet Isaiah speaks of God’s house coming to earth, of nations and peoples leaving their quarrels and walking together. These are words of hope for people weary of conflict, whether it’s the global conflict of war and terrorism, the intimate conflict of a troubled marriage or divided family, or the interior conflict of a troubled soul. Christ is coming to heal and to arbitrate, to settle conflicts and end conflicts. That’s a visitor we would all welcome.

But then we hear St. Paul talk about using the time remaining to us as a time of spiritual preparation. It’s pretty serious business as he describes it. If we want to walk in that light that Isaiah talks about, first we have to get out of what Paul calls the “works of darkness”. Paul warns us that if we want to be ready for the coming of “the Lord Jesus Christ”, ready to put him on like a new clean garment, then we need to undergo nothing less than a spiritual makeover, throwing off old habits and old ways of living and thinking.

In Matthew’s gospel, the visitor himself, Jesus, warns us as Paul did that God’s coming is linked to our salvation. The image of Noah’s flood, captured on our bulletin this morning, isn’t just an image of the unexpected. It’s also a warning that if we are still found sleeping, still found in our old clothes, then we risk, to borrow the title from Timothy Findley’s book on the flood, being classified as “not wanted on the voyage”. Like Paul, our Lord also warns us to get busy, because we don’t know when he’s coming. We often think of the second coming with trumpets and fanfare, but Jesus warns us that he might come like a thief in the night, when we’re in bed watching Letterman.

Put all these themes together and it’s unnerving. The promise of hope and light, but the warning that we better not sleep through it. The challenge to undergo a spiritual makeover, and the warning that we better not fail, like the people who weren’t ready for Noah’s flood. Wow, that sounds like a lot of work, and little time to do it in. So where do we start? How do we manage our Advent preparation?

First, let’s remember where we are. We’re at the Eucharist. We’re about to encounter our Lord in the meal we share together, in the sacrament of his body and blood. We do this because we want to be changed for the better, and we know that only Christ can do this for us because of who he is and what he did on the cross. We know from our tradition that we have to prepare for to take Communion. You may remember some of your confirmation classes on preparing for Communion. If not, here’s a reminder from a great Anglican thinker, Austin Farrer:

"It is hard to prepare for Communion, because it is hard to face the truth. But it is not at all complicated or puzzling. You have merely to accept what you know God demands of you, and to renounce what you know he forbids you, and to be sorry. Remember something to thank him for, and someone to pray for, and you have made your preparation." (Quoted by the Rev. Gavin G. Dunbar, in The Anglican Digest, Advent 2007, p. 8)

Understand this idea of spiritual preparation, and you’ve almost got the idea of Advent. But this spiritual preparation is anticipated, isn’t it? You know when you walk in here that there will be a Eucharist this morning. All you have to do now is add a bit of the uncertainty and the vigilance of Advent.

Think of Our Lord’s use of everyday language – “drinking, marrying”, working “in the field”, “grinding meal” – in today’s Gospel. Jesus was saying that the people of Noah’s time had no warning of what was coming. To them it was just one thing after another. Put it in today’s language and you start to wonder, how might God show up on your morning commute or when you’re out ploughing or chatting with a friend at Tim Horton’s?

Ask yourself, who might I meet this Advent? Who can I visit? How can I bring Isaiah’s light and hope to someone? How can I be more aware of what God may be calling me to do in my immediate surroundings? How can I best use the time before Christmas? What can I change about myself? Who can I pray for? Who can I pray with? Seen in these terms Advent ceases to be the fearful anticipation of some sudden catastrophe. Advent starts becoming manageable, even fun. You may even find yourself, like my mother, bustling about, whistling People Look East or Christmas is Coming, in joyful anticipation of our Advent guest, our Lord Jesus Christ.

©Michael Peterson+ 2007

Healing the Wounds of War

Healing the Wounds of War by Benedicta Cipolla, from the PBS Religion and Ethics Website.
War is, in some ways, the ultimate spiritual crisis.

By its very nature, it requires participants to perform acts that would be considered legally and morally wrong in civilian life. "Your whole life, regardless of religion, you're told, 'Don't kill, don't kill, don't kill.' Then all of a sudden it's, 'Here's a gun.' It's hard to reconcile that," says Linda McClenahan, a Dominican nun, trauma counselor, and former Vietnam Army sergeant who lives in Racine, Wisconsin.

In a 1995 study, 51 percent of veterans in residential post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) treatment in a Veterans Affairs facility said they had abandoned their religious faith during the war in which they fought. In the same study, 74 percent of respondents said they had difficulty reconciling their religious beliefs with traumatic war-zone events. Battle creates moral confusion, and it can leave a soldier spiritually as well as physically wounded.

Read the Complete Article

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

From My Workbench - Ruined WW2 House

Ruined house model in 20mm (roughly HO or 1/72nd scale) by Sentry Models (AT06 Detached Ruined House), ordered from RLBPS (Bob Bowling). The house is a single resin casting, except for the bit of flooring on the second level. Enjoyed good service from these folks, would order more from them.

The figure beside it is a British officer from AB Miniatures.

Here's another view:

Hmm, hope that Brit officer noticed the German machine gun on the other side of that building!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

What I'm Reading: Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq.

Thomas E. Ricks’ Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq. New York: Penguin 2006.

Thomas Ricks is the Pentagon correspondent for The Washington Post (would that Canadian media allowed reporters to specialize in military affairs to develop similar expertise). Ricks’ choice of title betrays both his anger and his aim in writing this book. In his view and in the view of military men such as Marine General Anthony Zinni (p. 13), the US policy of containing Saddam Hussein was working. Iraq’s degraded economy and military posed no serious threat of developing weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Neo-conservatives such as Paul Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfield and Douglas Feith disagreed with the containment strategy, and after 9/11 they could make the case for a pre-emptive war to deny Saddam Hussein the use of WMD. These Bush officials blithely ignored warnings that seem quite farsighted tpday. In October of 2002, for example, a conference of US government officials was told by a panel of experts how fraught with danger an Iraqi adventure would be. Alina Romanowski, a former Pentagon official, said prophetically, “I am not clear that we have a clear idea of where we want to be the morning after an invasion. The US military will be stepping into a morass. Iraq presents as unpromising a breeding ground for democracy as any in the world. It has never really known democracy or even legitimate, centralized rule for any great duration.” She added that “a small US force sufficient to bring about Saddam’s demise might not be sufficient to stop the subsequent bloodletting” (p. 65). Likewise, in February 2003, Anthony Zinni would tell the House Foreign Relations Committee that they were paying too little attention to the administration’s lack of an exit strategy for Iraq, and too little attention to the vagueness of their goals. He said, “is it truly this transformed Irq that we’ve heard about, or are we just going to get rid of Saddam Hussein and hope for the best” (p. 87). It’s surprising to read and to be reminded that such clear concerns were raised in the run up to war. What surprises and shocks even more is Ricks’ account of how, having committed to the invasion of Iraq, America appeared to have no understanding of what it would do the day after it reached Baghdad.

First was the failure to go in with enough force to stabilize the country once it was captured. Today the integration of military, policing, stability and security operations is called “three block war” or “full spectrum” war. For the guys who were first into Baghdad, that war doesn’t appear to have been envisioned. As one officer Ricks quotes memorably puts it, “I can remember quite clearly, I was on a street corner in Baghdad, smoking a cigar, watching some guys carry a sofa by – and it never occurred to me that I was going to be the guy to go get that sofa back” (p. 152). It would take several bloody years before the US could train and trust Iraqi soldiers and police to stabilize a broken country. In the meantime the US troops had to do everything themselves, and they made their task immeasurably more difficult.

As Ricks argues it, the Bush administration and misguided US military policies and doctrines could not have done a better job of creating an effective insurgency if they had tried. The decision to disarm the Iraqi military and create a huge pool of hostile and unemployed males, led by Baath party leaders and officers who were summarily tossed out of their jobs, is perhaps the greatest mistake. Others surprise, such as the ongoing search for WMD assets in Iraq after the invasion, which prevented limited American resources from seizing and destroying conventional weapons dumps, which were legion, and which effectively supplied the insurgents. Likewise the failure to secure the Syrian border in the first year allowed the insurgency time to mobilize and import weapons, cash and foreign fighters. If there was not a terrorist connection to Iraq before 2003, there certainly was a foreign and Al Qaeda presence there afterwards. Finally, the clumsy mass detentions of Iraqi males once the shape of the insurgency began to emerge (one army division detained ten thousand men in one year, “grabbing whole villages, because combat soldiers [were] unable to figure out who was of value and who was not” p. 195).

These mass detentions swamped the limited resources of US military prisons and police, and harsh interrogation practices, made scandals such as Abu Ghraib inevitable. The damage caused by Abu Ghraib and similar abuses, as well as unit-level beatings and executions (PUC fucking, meaning the beating up of a prisoner or PUC, PUC standing for Person Under Control, emerges as a new term in the history of war and abuse) in the field, while impossible to quantify, made the US task immeasurably harder. One Marine General in the spring of 2004 remembers seeing his soldiers glued to a TV just after the Abu Ghraib story broke. “A nineteen-year-old lance corporal glanced up from the television and told the general, “Some assholes have just lost the war for us” (p. 290). This teenage soldier certainly understood what was at stake in these abuses. The long life of these abuses in the media also underminded the morale and sense of purpose of the US troops. As a Marine Corps historian puts it, “We now spend ninety-five percent of ourmtime talking about the Abu Ghraib stuff, and one percent talking about the valour of our troops” (p. 380).

As Ricks describes it, a besieged American military forgot the lessons it had learned the hard way in previous counter-insurgency campaigns such as Vietnam and had to re-learn them. Living in huge bases with every conceivable amenity while Iraqis lived around them without electricity, driving through cities at high speed with itchy trigger fingers, relying on mercenaries and private contractors while remaining and ignorant of the local culture - all these US errors enabled the insurgents to portray themselves as patriots fighting an occupation force. As one Special Forces officer wrote home in 2003, “Police, [electric] power and political process ... will fix this place, and if we give them those three then we can get the heck out of here” (p. 241). Some US commanders found clever and non-violent ways to reduce their problems. One brigadier of the 101st Airborne Division, on learning of Iraqi rumours that US night-vision goggles could see through women’s clothing, put on a demonstration of the equipment for local leaders in the Tigris Valley. This and similar meetings developed into a commission which the US commanders in the area could use for dialogue and for solving regional issues (p. 231). By 2006, this population-based approach would be the doctrine that the entire US army was trying to use.

Amidst this story of folly and tragedy, some figures emerge as heroes. Ricks describes one Army military intelligence officer who early on in 2003 took issue with interrogation practices that included hitting with closed fists and “low-voltage electrocution”. This officer wrote in an e-mail exchange on interrogation techniques that “We are American soldiers, heirs of a long tradition of staying on the high ground. We need to stay there (p. 198).” Likewise, the heroism and professionalism of many US soldiers, such as the Marines who had to fight to capture the city of Fallujah in March 2004 and then do it all over in November that same year, testify to the tragedy and heroism of a military that can win battles but is put into a war that may never have served any real purpose. The grim conclusion of Ricks’ book is that years from now, if or when Iraq fractures and a regional war involving Kurds, Turks, Syrians and possibly others erupts, the US may have to send in its young men and women again, this time to face an even fiercer foe with (and Pakistan was still stable in 2006 when Ricks wrote this book) with even deadlier weapons.

A US Army Chaplain in Iraq

Military chaplains: a Presbyterian pastor patrols with his flock of soldiers in Iraq
Army Capt. Ron Eastes carries a big responsibility - but no weapon - in his 'ministry of presence' with the 82nd Airborne.

By Lee Lawrence | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor


Read the complete story from the Christian Science Monitor.

Monday, November 26, 2007

A Sermon for the Reign of Christ the King

Preached at Grace Church, Ilderton, and St. George’s, Middlesex Centre 25 November, 2007

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers – all things have been created through him and for him.” (Colossians 1:15-16)

Today in the life of the church is called The Reign of Christ. It’s the last Sunday before we enter the season of Advent, and it invites us to consider an aspect of the identity of Christ that we don’t always consider. We can think of Jesus in many ways as the good shepherd, as the wise rabbi, the friend we eat with, the baby in the manger, the personal saviour, but today we think about Jesus as King and Lord. Today invites us to consider Jesus in light of the qualities we associate with kings, such as authority, majesty, power. In the mighty opening of his letter to the Colossian church this morning, there is no doubt in St. Paul’s mind that Jesus is king and lord of absolutely everything on heaven and on earth. So today is a day for asking ourselves – what is Jesus lord and king of in my life?

What is a lord and king for me? I’ve never met a king in my own life. Perhaps some of you have, but I never did. I did however meet a queen. Well, actually, I saw a queen, during one of Queen Elizabeth II’s visits to Canada in the 1980s. I suspect several of you can remember a royal visit as well, and have stories of your own experiences. In my case, it was Victoria in British Columbia, and with several of my student friends we went down to the inner harbour to see the Queen leave on the royal yacht Britannia. There was a large crowd, and the Queen’s ship was brilliantly lit up – the Britannia was a beautiful ship, painted in black and white with a sharp bow and a graceful superstructure and two elegant masts – a very appropriate ship for a monarch.

The Queen stood at the top of the gangplank and waved to us, and of course we all waved back, and we cheered, and I think we may even have sung God Save the Queen spontaneously. Finally the gangplank was withdrawn and the ship got under way, but my friends and I weren’t willing to let it end at that. We piled into a little car and drove along the waterfront, as far as we could, until finally we got out and watched Britannia, a brilliant point of light on the dark ocean, until finally she vanished into the night. The excitement of that night was quite surprising to me, because whereas my friends were English and quite the monarchists, I was rather lefty and rather rude about the Queen, up till then. But that night, when her ship finally was lost to our sight, the world seemed a little less magical, and we were left to go back to our ordinary lives.

Surely one reason that some of us want to have kings and queens is the sense of majesty and grace that they bring to an otherwise ordinary world. Even though Queen Elizabeth is an ordinary woman with a handbag and little dogs, she is set apart. If you saw last year’s film The Queen with Helen Mirren, you may remember the scene at the beginning after Tony Blair has just been elected as Prime Minister of the UK. He has to go to Buckingham Palace to receive the Queen’s permission to form a new government, and as he climbs the stairs to meet her, a royal aide instructs him how to behave when he enters the royal “presence”. Presence is exactly what it is, and Blair’s ensuing nervousness is something we can all relate to. Here is a woman born to power, with a sense of centuries of privilege and responsibility, whose ancestors had the power of life and death over others.

The point of the film The Queen, however, is that power and dignity in royals aren’t enough for us. As people, we also need to relate to royalty, to have a sense that despite their power and privilege they are still interested in us and sympathetic to us. That’s why the most popular part of any royal visit is the walkabout, when the royals meet perfect strangers and yet manage to appear friendly and gracious. We want to know that kings and queens stand with us rather than over us. Perhaps the best illustration of this from history if the blitz of 1940-41, when Londoners could see the royal flag over Buckingham Palace and know that the royal family was home, sharing the same dangers and the same rations as ordinary folks. That’s the contract with our royals, that we are prepared to put them above us if they are willing to serve their people and share their people’s lives.

Finally, and most importantly, we want royals to be role models, to exemplify character, dignity, and duty. It’s a pretty thankless job, to be sure, and these expectations may be unfair, but what drives the cheap tabloid journalism is a sense that the royals are held to a high standard. Last week the Archbishop of Canterbury spoke to the royals’ function as role models when he preached at a service celebrating the Diamond Wedding Anniversary of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip. The Archbishop spoke about the public nature of the married partnership of these two particular people, and of how they have kept the promises of their partnership to the commonwealth but more importantly, to one another. Even though our hopes for fidelity and commitment are frequently shattered, this marriage of Queen and Royal Consort says what any long marriage can say about us.

"Here is a relationship which proclaims something profound and exhilarating about our humanity: a human being is worth spending a lifetime on, a lifetime of loving attention; and also a human being is capable of giving a lifetime’s attention. Humanity is shown to be at once immeasurably worthwhile and also free to reflect the gift of God’s eternal love in its own relationships that shares the character of what happens when God through Jesus Christ establishes the lasting sign of his love that is the community of the church."

As with most of Rowan Williams’ statements, this one is dense but worth thinking about. What the Archbishop says about the quality of the royal marriage of Elizabeth and Philip and how it reflects “the gift of God’s eternal love” is true of the monarchy itself. At its best, we see in the monarchy something of the reign of Christ the King.

Think of the shapes that power in today’s world can take. A dictator arming himself with terrible weapons. A podium full of unsmiling and unelected men in suits or uniforms, protected by secret police. A man in a suit emerging from a helicopter, with an aide carrying a suitcase that can start the last and ultimate war. And then there is a small woman with a handbag and little dogs, seemingly immune to fatigue, who has spent her life being interested in the lives and dignity of her subjects. That is a different kind of power. As Rowan Williams suggests, it is a power that comes from relationship and from community, rather than a power that comes from the barrel of a gun.

Our Lord Jesus Christ did not come to earth to have power as the world understood it. Others thought he might want to be a king. Pilate looked at the whipped and isolated figure of Jesus and mockingly said “behold the man!”, and when the crucified him they Pilate put a message above him that said “Jesus Christ, King of the Jews”, just in case anyone else wanted to take away some of Rome’s power. But Jesus didn’t come to earth to be such a king.

Jesus came to earth and died on the cross because God in his infinite love believes that all of his creations, all of humanity, deserve dignity. God believes that all of us deserve his love and attention. Paul understands this perfectly in the reading from Colossians we heard this morning. Yes, says Paul, Jesus is the same as God. Yes, he carries all the “fullness of God”, yes he was present at creation, and yes, he is lord of “all things in heaven and on earth”. Yes, he is the king of kings and lord of lords, with more power and majesty than we could ever imagine.

What does Jesus do with this power? He loves. He heals. He teaches. He takes trembling hands and lifts them up. He forgives. He banishes shame and self-doubt. He brings the hungry in from the cold and feeds them. He stands with people rather than over them. As Paul says, “He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in who we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Col 1:13-14). This is power that shares, that gives of itself to give life, that creates community. As Rowan Williams said of the marriage of Elizabeth and Philip, it is what happens when we pay attention to another person, declaring them to be worthwhile. This insight helps explain another Christian metaphor which sees Christ as the Church’s bridegroom – the two images, Christ as Lord and Christ as Bridegroom, thus complementing and reinforcing one another. In neither aspect does Christ seek to dominate and exploit, but rather, through the investment of his attention and faithfulness and love, he builds up, creates, renews.

Is Jesus King? You better believe it. He’s my boss and your boss, he’s in charge of wardens and priests and organists and bishops and archbishops. Is he to be feared? Yes, by those who seek to exploit and create fear in others. Is he to be welcomed? Yes, if we want to share in his light and love. Does he have expectations of us? Yes, and if you want to remind yourself of them, read the Baptismal Covenant in the BAS. Does the world need Jesus? Yes, because the world is spiritually hungry and the world has distorted and meager understandings of power.

So today is day for thinking about power and authority and majesty. It’s a day for us to think about how we understand and seek power, in the church, in our homes, in our workplaces, in our hearts. It’s a day to be thankful that we are subjects of a king who shares with us “in the inheritance of the saints in the light”. How will we share his love and power with those who are still in the darkness?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

From My Workbench - Ruined Factory Model

I am finding that I love modeling scenery as much as I love painting soldiers. I think miniature wargaming has the potential to combine the best of model railroading with toy soldiers to produce visually satisfying results. So that's the theory.

Here's a model in progress. It was originally a Walther model railroad kit, which I wanted to turn into a ruined factory in some war-torn town. The complete story of its creation can be seen here . When finished, the roof will be removable to place chaps (20mm or HO or 1/72nd scale) inside. The details inside are bricks that I chopped up out of foamboard (too big, I think) and the debris and green machine thingy are scraps that my friend James gave me from his auto-parts plant. Much work to do but it's coming along nicely.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

A Sermon for Sunday, November 18

A Sermon for the Twenty-Fifth Sunday After Pentecost
Grace and St. George’s, 18 November, 2007

Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven. “But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. This will give you an opportunity to testify. Luke 21:10-11

I haven’t yet seen the film An Inconvenient Truth . For those of you who haven’t heard about it, I’m talking about the 2006 film on global warming and climate change by Al Gore, the former Vice-President of the United States. I’ve certainly heard a lot about it. I can’t think of any other movie in recent years that’s gotten my friends and acquaintances so riled up. Friends have sent me emails urging me to go see it because it is a live changing experience. Friends have sent me emails saying that the message of the film’s message is totally distorted. Some say that Al Gore is a modern messiah, who richly deserved the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. Others say that Gore is a cynical entrepreneur who makes millions off his speaking engagements while living the fossil-fuel dependent lifestyle that he condemns in his speeches. I don’t know which of these views is right. I just know that I haven’t seen the film yet because most days I’m afraid too.

As I write this, the UN panel of climate control experts is predicting that the world is warming faster than anyone has thought. Their report predicts that a rise in the global temperature of between 1.5 to 2.5 degrees could mean an increased chance of extinction for between 20 to 30 per cent of the world’s species, and increased poverty and misery for millions of people. Is the world changing? Is the world ending? Sometimes I’d rather not think about what sort of world our children and our grandchildren will inherit. Even when I try to tune out the news, the signs are still there. This fall we’ve seen some trees lose their leaves, some keep their leaves but change colour, and some have stayed green. This harvest we’ve seen days where, as one farmer told me the other day, the combine would hit patches in the field where it would just fall silent. Well-drilling companies are booked up for months. Water is on everyone’s mind. The days feel uncertain.

As we read today’s gospel, we see Jesus facing an uncertain future in a totally unflinching manner. One of the disciples has made an innocent comment about how wonderful the temple in Jerusalem is. Wow, Jesus! Look at this wonderful temple, how beautifully it’s made, and all the gifts in it that people have given to God. You can just imagine them, these country hicks and fishermen from Galilee, looking up at the walls and pillars. But Jesus isn’t impressed. “Don’t you be fooled”, he says. “Nothing lasts forever”. In language that is drawn from the prophets of Israel, Jesus predicts a grim future, when not one brick of the Temple would be left standing one on the other. Incidentally, he was right. Some forty years later, the Roman legions would destroy Jerusalem. The Temple, which looked to the disciples as if it would stand for ever, was finished.

Why does Jesus give this warning to the disciples? Was it just to scare them, or bum them out? No, I don’t think so, any more than Al Gore wants his movie to bum them out (even if people like me are too chicken). Jesus was trying to change the disciples. The disciples looked up at this magnificent church and thought that its bricks and mortar and gold were a testimony to the glory of God. They thought that this building was a sign of God. No, says Jesus. The time will come when the church will be gone, but you will be signs of God. Don’t fear the scary times to come, says Jesus, because as he says, “This will give you an opportunity to testify.” (Luke 21:13). In the times to come, says Jesus, what will matter is not the testimony of buildings, but the testimony of people – real, ordinary people who believe in God, who know God, and who aren’t afraid to talk about God.

Fast forward to today. This weekend, Renee, Kristyn, Hilda, Michele and Heather went to an event called The Magnetic Church. They heard a speaker, Andy Weeks, who at times could sound rather scary. Andy reminded us that in 1965, there were 122,000 people on the parish rolls in the Diocese of Huron. Today there are just 47,000. That decline matches other dioceses in the Anglican Church of Canada, including Toronto, and I know that he’s right because I got these figures for Andy from Huron Church House. We’ve built these wonderful churches, full of beautiful things given to God by faithful families, but the buildings are starting to crumble and increasingly, people walk by them and pay them no heed.

Andy told us that we’ve reached a point in our history where churches of brick and stone, even churches as lovely and as well-loved as ours, no longer testify to the glory of God. Like Jesus, Andy told us that only people testify to God, and we are those people, if we want to be. The only role of a church, he said, is to be a vehicle “to support and further God’s purposes in the world”. What are God’s purposes? To show humans that God loves us, that God wants us to love one another, and that God wants us to show his love to people who see only “the weariness and scariness of their daily lives”.

How are we going to carry this message to the people who need it? Andy reminded us that as Anglicans we were also Protestants – not Protest-ants but also Pro-testants, Pro-testifiers, Pro-claimers. See how we’re back to our Lord’s words of this morning’s gospel, “This will give you an opportunity to testify”. How are we going to testify? This week the Missing Link once again goes out in the mail to our community, and the last page offers a rich reflection from Lynn Trute on how we as a parish endeavour to show God’s love through service. During the announcements today we will have some time for our Magnetic Church delegates to reflect on their ideas of what they learned and how they feel we can go ahead as “Pro-testants, Pro-testifiers”. In the weeks and months to come, I hope that our two congregations can think more and more about how our parish of Grace and St. George’s can be a “magnetic church”.

Let me finish with this thought about certainty and uncertainty. There are times when things look bleak. When I came here I thought I might be the minister who has to close Grace Church. The other day a family was checking us out and said “we like this – it looks like a young church”. God can surprise us. Likewise, I know some folks at St. George’s worry about our future, but again, God can surprise us. There is much strength and goodness in both congregations, and there always will be, if we remain people of hope. Not hope in what we alone can do, because temples end. Times and eras end. Perhaps we do live in the end times of our planet, or perhaps our great-grandchildren will remember this time as the dawn of a new era. Whatever happens, God is faithful. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, but he is always loving, and he is always good, and he will never abandon his children. This is the message that the world needs, this is the message that we are called to testify, and the world will always need the church if we hold true to this message. Amen.

©Michael Peterson+ 2007

A Sermon for Remembrance Day

Sunday, November 11, 2007, Grace and St. George’s

Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive.’ (Luke 20:38)

This morning I want to offer a few comments about remembrance and hope. These two things are important to today, of course, but they are also important to the faith which gathers us here week by week, year by year.

Today is a day of remembering. It’s not about remembering specific events, because there is no one alive today who can remember what it was like at Vimy Ridge or Passchendaele. In a few years more, a decade at the most, there won’t be anyone left alive who can remember what is like at Dieppe or what it felt like to be caught in the flak and searchlights over Germany. All we can do is remember the people who went before us to these terrible places. We can remember the people we knew – parents and grandparents – and we can remember the ones we didn’t know, the ones who are just names and strangers to us.

Why do we remember? The reasons are complex. We remember them because their lives were significant, and because the loss of their potential, so many who died so young, can never be fully appreciated. We remember them to do them honour, because they gave what Abraham Lincoln in his Gettysburg Address called “the last full measure of devotion”, paying the ultimate sacrifice for those they loved and for we who came after them. We remember them because it is our responsibility to remember them, because we owe them. If we decided to cancel November 11th and just forget about the past, we would be the less for it. Our society would somehow be diminished if we abandoned Remembrance Day.

These are good reasons to remember, to be sure, but I think the third and most important reason we remember is because of hope. We have the hope, again to quote Lincoln, that “these dead did not die in vain”. We have the hope that their deaths made the world a better place. We have the hope that peace and freedom are great gifts, to be defended if necessary, but never to be squandered or abandoned needlessly. We have the hope that we have learned from history, and that things will work out for the better. If we did not have hope, Remembrance Day would be a tragic event, nothing but the naming of victims, and history would be a trap that humans are forever caught in.

Christians are people called to remember and called to hope. God calls us to remember – to remember him and to remember that we are his people, and to remember the way God wants us to live. God also calls us to hope – the hope of Christ’s power and resurrection, the hope that we can change and that the world can change, and the hope that we will be saved. We believe in memory and hope because we believe that these things come from God. A God who created the world must surely remember everything and everyone in it, and a God who sends his son to save the world must surely have hope for the future. We see both these things clearly in today’s gospel.

In today’s reading from Luke, Jesus has finally reached Jerusalem. Not everyone agrees with his preaching and teaching, and not everyone agrees that Jesus is the Messiah, the one sent by God to save his people. A group called the Sadducces set out to challenge him. The Sadducces were Jews who did not believe in the resurrection. As far as they were concerned, once you die, that’s it. Game over. They challenge Jesus with the riddle of a woman who in turn marries seven brothers in accordance with a Jewish law called Levirate Marriage According to this law, if a man died, it was the brother’s duty to take his sister-in-law in marriage, and he was to name the firstborn after his deceased brother, “so that his name may not be blotted out of Israel” (Deut 25:5-6).

The Sadducces I think are like people who go to a funeral and say, “Well, Joe’s dead, he was a good guy, but he’s gone and the best that we can do is remember him”. As far as they are concerned, the best we can hope for is to be remembered by having our name and our memory continue in our descendants, which is the purpose of Levirate Marriage. If God intended to do something as radical as raise people from the dead, he wouldn’t have given this law to his people. The women in the riddle wouldn’t have needed to remarry, because her first husband would be alive again on the day of resurrection. For the Sadduccees, God is either trapped in history or he has lost interest in it. Their God has set things up a certain way, cleaned his hands, and said “this is the way it’s supposed to be, muddle along as best you can.”

But as I said, we are people of hope because we believe that God isn’t finished with history. God isn’t content with the way things are. God will change things for the better. Jesus tells the Sadducees something that human categories like marriage will change in heaven, so their question is irrelevant. We will be changed into “angels and .. children of God, being children of the resurrection” (Luke 20:37). We don’t really know what Jesus means by this. Certainly it tracks with what St. Paul says elsewhere about how human categories like gender, race, and social status will no longer count in God’s new creation (see Galatians 3:27-28), but other than noting this continuity I think it’s vain to speculate too much about what this might mean. All we can be sure of is that we will be made new, and made better.

Personally what I take comfort from is what Jesus goes on to say. “And the fact that the dead are raised Moses himself showed, in the story about the bush, where he speaks of the Lord as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive.’” (Luke 20:37-38). Take a minute to let that sink in. God is talking about his memory. He is saying that in his eternal memory, all of us are alive – Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the seven brothers of the woman in the riddle.

It would be like God saying to me “I am the God of Michael Peterson, and of his father Allan Peterson, and his father Arthur Peterson, and his father …”. Now I knew my father, but after his death I realized that there were many things about him I didn’t know and would never know. My grandfather Arthur was dead long before I was born, and I only new a few things about him. I have only the vaguest idea of who my great-grandfather knows, and likely never will never know more. I can try as best I can to pass what I know of them on to my children and, perhaps, my grandchildren, and give them the few mementos that my father left to me. But memories fade, stories are lost, and I have no guarantee that those to come will remember Arthur, or Allan, or Michael.

Likewise we who gather today face an impossible task. We can try to remember the dead of our wars as best we can. We can do wonderful things, like the project this year of giving each schoolchild who went to Vimy Ridge the name and details of a Canadian soldier who died in that war. We can talk to the veterans while they last, and capture their fading memories. We do the best that we can, but we know, as our hymn today reminds us, that “time like an ever-rolling stream bears all its sons away”. Not so with the mind of God. We have the promise in the words of our gospel that God will not forget us.

Let me close by asking you to try, if you can, to let go of one image and replace it with another. Try to let go of the traditional image of God’s memory, the image of that big book at St. Peter’s desk where all of our misdoings and mistakes are kept for the day of judgment. Think instead of God remembering all of you that is important – who you loved, the best that you can be, your fondest hopes and greatest dreams, your most selfless moments. Think of God holding these things clearly in his mind, as clearly as your best and brightest memory of your childhood summers, and brighter still. Finally, think of God calling these memories forth on the day when he will recreate the world, creating you anew, as something angelic, a child of the resurrection. On that day none of us will be forgotten. We will be remembered, fully and gloriously, along with our grandparents and their grandparents and all the names on every cenotaph across this country and overseas, to stand with those in the graves marked “A Soldier Known Unto God”. For surely that is our best and brightest hope, that each of us is “known unto God”.

©Michael Peterson+ 2007

Thursday, November 1, 2007

All Saints Day Children's Program, November 1st, 2007

On November 1st, St. George's of Middlesex Centre, one of the churches I serve, played host to the Deaner of Medway's All Saints Children's Day. This event is one of a series of events organized by deanery youth ministry coordinator Heather Brown. Medway deanery offers two events a year, one on All Saints Day (1 Nov) and one at the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday, and takes advantage of Ontario legislation that excuses children from school to attend a day of religious instruction. Because this was All Saints Day, we thought we'd take advantage of the host church's name and tell the story of George and the Dragon using crafts, drama, stories and games. A video of the event, shot by Heather Brown, can be seen here. There are digital pictures and captions as part of my Facebook site. A video of the event, shot by Heather Brown, can be seen here.

A script and outline of part of the day's events is posted below. You are more than welcome to use it or adapt it as you see fit.

Morning Session
Facilitator talks about the importance of saints. We believe as Anglicans that saints are role models – they teach us how to be Christian. By their example, we learn what it means to live the kind of life that God wants us to live.
Today we are going to have a visit from a very special saint, St. George! And here he is now!
Voice off:
Left, right! Left, right!
Marching off, to the fight!
Gotta be strong, do what’s right!
Gotta love God with all my might!
Left, right! Left right!
Company ...... HALT!

Looks around, surprised.

Well, hello there!
I say, I’ve been marching for a long, long time.
I could use a bit of a rest.
Do you mind if I take off my armour
And sit down for a visit?

My name’s George. How do you do?
They call me SAINT George, but really, George is fine.
And what are your names?

So pleased to meet you.
They told me you were studying ME.
And they told me that this church is named after ME!
Fancy that! Isn’t that kind of you!
I say, I would love something to eat.
May I please have one of those cookies?
Thanks awfully! How nice. Very tasty.
So, what would you like to know about me?

The children might ask, or be prompted to ask George to talk about his life.

My life? My goodness, that’s a long story and it’s rather hard to tell.
You see, I’ve been around for such a long time, there’s a lot to remember.
I guess I should start back in the year 400!
That was a long, long time ago.
I was a soldier in the Roman Army.
As a soldier I had to be brave and strong and ready to fight.
But, I was also a Christian.
I believed that Jesus was our Lord and Saviour, the Son of God.
And that was hard, because in those days,
If you were a soldier, you weren’t allowed to be a Christian.
Sometimes it’s hard to be a Christian.
Perhaps it’s hard for you, when you’re friends don’t go to church
And you can’t be them them when you’d like to on Sundays.
Well, one day they found out that I was a Christian.
They said, George old boy, you can either give up this being Christian business,
Or, well, if you don’t, we’ll just have to chop your head off.
My goodness, that was a hard choice.

What did I do? Well, it was simple. I said I would stay a Christian.
Even if they chopped my head off.

Was I scared? I should say so. I was scared stiff.
But you see, I remembered what the Bible said
About having faith and putting on the armour of God.
I knew that I could trust God and he would protect me.
No matter what happened.

Well, I’m still here, aren’t I?
You see, saints are hard chaps to kill.
We’re God’s reminders.
Whenever someone is scared,
Whenever someone wonders what’s the right thing to do,
Whenever someone needs a good example, they can look to us.

Years and years later, some soldiers from England heard about me.
They heard about my fight with the dragon
And they brought my story back to England.
They made me the national saint of England.
That’s why my red cross on a white shield
became part of the British flag.

What dragon? My goodness, THE dragon.
Have you never seen a dragon?
Well, the dragon has lots of different names.
Some people call him the devil, some people call him Satan.
The important thing is, the dragon is whatever is bad.
Anything that goes against God’s plan for the world is a dragon.
Anything that tempts us to do bad things,
Anything that tries to get us to love ourselves more than other people,
Anything tries to get us to put ourselves ahead of other people,
That’s a dragon.
I fought the dragon many times.
I always chased him off, but he always came back.
I’m always ready to fight him.

That’s my story, and that’s why,
Whenever people remember me and tell my story,
They talk about St. George and the dragon.
If we go into this church that is so kindly named after me,
I bet that we can see some pictures of me and the dragon.
Let’s go look, shall we?

That was very interesting, wasn’t it?
Did you know that you too can be dragon fighters?
That’s right! All of us Christians are dragon fighters.
When we were baptized, our parents and our godparents
And the whole congregation in church that day,
Promised that they would teach us to fight against
Satan, the devil, and all the bad things in the world.
So that makes us dragon fighters, doesn’t it?
Our family and our church family promised to help us
To grow up to be dragon fighters.

Now, as dragon fighters, how are you going to fight the dragon?
What sorts of things would you need?

Those are all good answers.
I have some more answers, from the Bible.
In a book of the Bible called Ephesians, Paul
(Paul was also a saint, a good fellow, Paul)
Writes this advice for dragon fighters.

“God is strong and he wants you strong. So take everything that the Lord has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything that the Dragon throws your way. ... Be prepared. ... Take up all the help you can get, every weapon God has given you, so that when it’s all over you’ll still be on your feet. Truth makes the best belt, fasten it tight around your waist. Doing what’s right in God’s eyes makes the best armour, so put that on over your chest. Wear good boots, that make you want to tell how great God is wherever you may go! Faith and trust in God makes the best shield against whatever flames that old dragon spits out at you! Your best helmet comes from Jesus, who died to save us all from sin. Finally, your best sword isn’t a sword at all, but it’s the Holy Spirit that we learn about in the Bible, which teaches us how to be God’s people. And always, always, pray for yourself and for other people, and use prayer as your lifeline to God.”

This paraphrase of Ephesians 6:10-18 is inspired partly by Eugene Peterson’s The Message and is partly my own paraphrase of the NRSV.

So, how does that make you feel?
Do you think you’d be safe with all those things?

So since St. Paul finished by asking us to pray,
Can I pray with you?

Gracious God, thank you that through our baptism,
You gave us the power to be dragon fighters
Through the love of your son, Jesus Christ.
Help us always to be strong to do what is good in your eyes.
And whenever we do wrong things,
Please forgive us and help us to try again and do better.
We ask these things in Jesus’ name. AMEN.

Well, friends, it’s been so nice talking to you.
Thank you for taking the time to learn about me on my special day.
More importantly, thank you for wanting to be God’s dragon fighters.
I pray that God blesses you and keeps you close to Him always.
And now, well, a dragon-fighter’s work is never done.
That old dragon is out there somewhere
and I’ve got to keep looking for him!
I’ll see you later! Goodbye!

After the visit from St. George the children can engage in crafts or activities.
After a break and before lunch, the Dragon will visit.

Dragon enters singing to the tune of “Puff the Magic Dragon”
I’m Ruff the Nasty Dragon!
I’m scary as can be!
I love to be mean and ferocious,
And make people frightened of me!

Big and small, short and tall,
I gobble folks up, boots and all!
You’d better watch out!
Better scream and shout!
‘Cuz today I’m here for YOU!!!!

Dragon looks around.

So, whaddya’ think? Are you scared?
I bet you are! I bet you’ve never seen
A dragon as scary as me? Well??

Well, you oughta be scared!
Who do you think I am? Barney the Dinosaur?
Well, I ain’t no nice guy like him.
Fortunately for you guys, today I’m not very hungry!
On the way hear I ate a farmer AND his combine,
And a whole field of cows! So good thing for you I’m full!

Well, almost full. I’ve always got room for a cookie ... or two ... or three.
Gimmee those cookies! . Mmmmm, delicious.

So, what are you guys doing here today? How come you’re not in school?

Saint George? So that’s what he’s calling himself these days, is it?
LOSER George is more like it.
I’ll bet he told you he won the last time we met?
Yeah, I’ll bet he did. I’ll bet he even got folks to name a church after him.
Say, what’s this church called?

Oh, man! That guy! What a nerve.
Well, don’t you BELIEVE a word of it!
The last time we met, SCAREDY George was running away calling for
His mommy!

“Oh, mommy, mommy, save me from the big nasty dragon!”
Saint George. Don’t make me laugh!

Look, kids, let me set you straight. Forget all that stuff.
St. George made it all up later because he’s a LOSER.
Face it, kids, nice guys always finish last.
How do you think I got to be such an important dragon?
By being NICE to people?
Forgetabout! They don’t call me Ruff the Dragon for nothing!
I got this name ‘cuz I’m Rough and Tough!
So remember, kids, nice guys finish last.
If you want to succeed in life, you gotta look out for number one!
You gotta be rough and tough, like me!

Well, kids, enough talk. Gotta run.
So many people to be nasty to, so little time.
Hmm, maybe a cookie for the road.
Say you don’t mind, do you?
Ha! As if you could stop me!

I’m Ruff the Nasty Dragon!
I’m scary as can be!
I love to be mean and ferocious,
And make people frightened of me!

Facilitators use this time to talk with the children about the dragon.
What did they think about him?
Is it better to be loved or feared? What did Jesus say (talk about the Golden Rule, love one another as you would love yourselves.
Talk about the dragon as a symbol of evil Ask children to identify other bad things, other sources of evil in the world (eg, child slavery, internet pornography, use of child soldiers in the third world, violent drug crime in schools, etc What are Christians supposed to think about these things?
After getting some thoughts from children, return to what St. George said about the Ephesians “Whole Armour of God” text in light of our baptismal vows. Our parents and godparents/sponsors promised at our birth to help us become people who would resist evil. Paul in Ephesians talks about the things that help us resist evil – prayer, faith, etc.

After lunch, St. George returns for a visit.

Hello friends! Did you have a good lunch?
Jolly good! You can’t be dragon fighters on an empty stomach!

I say, speaking of dragons,
you haven’t seen that old Dragon around, have you?
You have? By jove! I thought so!
My dragon sense was telling me there was trouble nearby?

Look, now that you’re all dragon fighters,
How about we put on our coats and boots
And go see if we can see signs of him?

St. George leads the children outside to look for signs of the dragon.
As they uncover signs, St. George looks wary, strokes his chin a lot,
And says things like “By jove” and “Can’t be too careful” and the like.

After returning to the parish hall:

Well, dragon fighters, you better be careful.
I’m going out for another look.
Remember, if you see that dragon,
Just call for St. George and I’ll be there to help you!

St. George leaves.
Shortly thereafter, Ruff the Dragon appears, singing.

I’m Ruff the Nasty Dragon!
I’m scary as can be!
I love to be mean and ferocious,
And make people frightened of me!

Hmmm, you again, eh? Well, guess what?
I haven’t had my lunch, and those cookies
Weren’t enough to fill me up!
I guess that means I’ll have to eat ...... YOU!!!

The children can be encouraged to scream and call for St. George, who at once reappears.

George: Now see here, Dragon!
Stop trying to frighten those children.
They know all about you and your wicked ways.
You just leave them alone and clear out.

Dragon: Oh yeah? Sez who?
Who’s going to stop me, eh?

George: I’m going to stop you,
Just like I did every other time.

Dragon: You’re going to stop me?
What a laugh! I hope you’ve got
A whole army out there, ‘cuz you’re going to need it.

George: I don’t need an army, Dragon.
I’ve got the shield of faith, the power of prayer,
And the love of Jesus Christ on me side.
You know what the Good Book says?
It says, “At the name of Jesus, every knee shall fall!”

Dragon: Well, THIS knee ain’t falling,
And I ain’t falling for you!
Get ready to be a dragon burger!

Dragon : Owwww, that hurt!
Whad’ya go and do a thing like that for?

George: I was defending myself!
I don’t want to hurt you, dragon,
But I am a dragon fighter,
And you are an evil dragon.

Dragon: But you did hurt me!
Do you think it’s any fun being an evil dragon?
You’ve been having a good time in here
While I’ve been lurking outside all day.
I don’t have any friends.

George: Well, you don’t have to be an evil dragon.

Dragon: Yes I do. I can’t help it. It’s the way I am.
It’s the way I am!
Boo hoo hoo!

There there, dragon, don’t cry. Come on, cheer up.
Look, you don’t have to be an evil dragon.
God didn’t make you to be evil.
God made everyone in the his own image.
That means God wants all of us to be his friends.

Dragon: Even dragons?

Even dragons, if they want to be God’s friends.
Do you know what else the Good Book says?
It says that “Nothing can keep us apart from the love of God.”
That includes you, if you want God to love me.

Dragon: How do I get God to love you?

George: God loves you already.
All you have to do is say after me.

“I’m sorry that I did bad things.”
“Thank you for loving me.”
“Thank you for sending me your son Jesus
To forgive me for the bad things I’ve done.”
“Help me from now on to be your friend
And to share your love with the people I meet.”

Dragon: That feels better.
Do I have to do anything else?

George: Well, you could apologize to these children
For scaring them and stealing their cookies.

Ummm, I’m sorry I scared you and took your cookies.

George: Children, do you forgive Dragon?
Why don’t you give Dragon a hug?

Dragon looks happy, hugs and high fives the children.

George: So, Dragon, how do you feel now?
Dragon: Well, I feel different!
I feel like a new dragon! I like it!
It makes me want to say thank you to God!

George: So why don’t you stay and worship God with us?
We’re going to celebrate the Eucharist now,
And have a meal of bread and wine together.
The Eucharist means “Thank You Dinner.”
So, will you stay for dinner?

Dragon: I think I will!

We close with the Eucharist. While it is being set up, a facilitator can ask the children what they have learned from the event. The children can be reminded about being dragon fighters and resisting evil, but as the dragon’s “conversion” reminds them, nothing is greater than God’s power of love and forgiveness, “For God so loved the world” (Jn 3:16).

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Ethics, Psychology and Abu Ghraib - Bad People or Bad Systems?

Ethics training in the CF currently focuses on helping personnel to make good choices, using individual "gut checks" to ask if a course of action is right, or asking themselves, "what would mom think if my actions were on the news". In this approach, abuses can be attributed to bad judgement or character flaws on the part of the abuser. But what happens when abuse is perpretrated by a system or culture, which is the thesis of Philip Zimbardo's book, The Lucifer Effect: How Good People Turn Evil (Rider and Co, 2007), 9781844135776. Zimbardo is famous for the Stanford Prison Experiment in 1971, a study which attempted to understand the psychology of imprisonment.

Zimbardo's book comments on the Abu Ghraib prison scandal in Iraq, which the US attempted to attribute to the actions of several low-ranking "bad actors". Here is part of Martha Nussbaum's review of this section of the book:

"Zimbardo concludes that situational features, far more than underlying dispositional features of people’s characters, explain why people behave cruelly and abusively to others. He then connects these insights to a detailed account of the abuses by United States soldiers at Abu Ghraib prison, where, he argues, the humiliations and torments suffered by the prisoners were produced not by evil character traits but by an evil system that, like the prison system established in the SPE, virtually ensures that people will behave badly. Situations are held in place by systems, he argues, and it is ultimately the system that we must challenge, not the frequently average actors. He then sets himself to analyse the features that make systems and situations bad, and to suggest ways in which they might be remedied."

Nussbam's critique of Zimbardo is that he tends to speak as if systems determine human psychology, "and the insides of people explain nothing at all". She argues that emotional development is just as important in explaining individual responses.

"Philip Zimbardo does not focus on emotional development, but it is surely a key part of the future of any society that is going to refuse to go down the road of the SPE and Abu Ghraib. What the guards in the experiment crucially lacked, when they lacked the ability to see the other as human, was empathy and its close relative, compassion. Compassion, as Daniel Batson’s wonderful research has shown, is closely linked to the ability to follow the story of another’s plight with vivid imagination. Situations can certainly encourage this ability, as Batson’s experimental situation did. Nonetheless, the imagination is a muscle that gets weak from routinized thinking and strong from vigorous challenges, and this suggests a vital role for the arts and humanities in any curriculum for good citizenship.

Let us hope that The Lucifer Effect, which confronts us with the worst in ourselves, stimulates a critical conversation that will lead to more sensible and less arrogant strategies for coping with our shared human weaknesses."

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Robot Rampage Paralyzes Pottersville, PA - OR - A 1930s Pulp Game Report

As part of our games day at the church last Saturday, a semi-regular event which the players have dubbed "AngliCONs", we fought a massive and very strange pulp game which was the brainchild of James Manto (of Hotlead fame) and Lorenzo Gionet, two gentlemen whose taste for the weird and the arcane is a cause of awe and wonder to their friends. We are very fortunate to have this rare radio news recording of the game.

Music Then Announcer: We interrupt this broadcast of the dance music of Tommy Dorsey and his orchestra to bring you this live report from our correspondent in Pottersville.

Pottersville, PA - building models various maunfacturers from the collections of James Manto and Keith Burnett. Mike "La Bete" Barratt looks on

Reporter: This is Jim McConnell for the Columbia Broadcasting System reporting from Pottersville, Pennsylvania, where something amazing is happening. I'm here at the demonstration of the amazing new mechanical workers, or robots, from Russia. Ladies and gentlemen, these are extraordinary gadgets. They look like large dustbins on legs, with arms ending in huge grippers or pincers that look like they could cut through steel. In fact, a while ago, I was watching as they were bending steel I-beams. These things are terrifically strong, and they are being controlled by these three scientists from the Soviet Union. Here's one of them now. Sir, a word of you please. What is your name?

Soviet Scientist: I am Dr. Ivan Sholokoshnikov from Soviet Akedemy of Science.

McConnell: Yes, Dr Shol ... ummm, Dr. What are these amazing gadgets of yours all about?

Scientist: Is very simple. Are robots, mechanical workers to do all manner of modern industrial tasks.

McConnell: What for? Why can't human workers do these tasks?

Scientist: Robots will free human workers from tyranny of the capitalist dialectic, allowing them to truly become owners of means of production, ensuring harmony between states.

McConnell: Ummm, yes, I, ummm, I see. Ladies and gentleman, the good Russian doctor is holding some sort of box that appears to control the robots, I'm guessing through radio waves. The robots are walking back and forth, to the amazement of the towns folk, who are gathered in large numbers to watch.

Robots perform to the amazement of townsfolk in the main square of Pottersville as police maintain crowd control.

McConnell: Here's the chief of the Pottersville Police Department, Chief Cruller. Chief, any comment about what's going on here? I noticed a lot of feds on my way in - some army trucks, what looked like Bureau men, and a lot of your boys. Are you expecting any trouble here today?

Cruller: Trouble? No, I don't think so. Some folks don't like these tin cans here, we've had some threats. Some of the folks here are worried about losing their jobs, but that's your typical Red agitators and New Deal troublemakers at work. If things go ugly, what with my boys, the G-men and some other heavy hitters, we'll be just fine. Now if you'll excuse me, I'll be getting to my command post.

McConnell: Certainly, Chief. Well, it is an incredible sight to be sure. I'm moving over to a group of men who are watching, some with heavy work coats on. Sir, what do you think of these amazing contraptions?

Man: They're abomminations! They'll put me and me family out on the streets! We're goin' to stop this once and for all.

McConnell: An angry man, to be sure, and he's not alone. What's this? A huge shadow is moving across the centre of town. People are looking up and .. there it is, ladies and gentleman, a giant airship. I can't see any markings, I can't tell you what it's doing here, just this giant shape hovering over the square.

Mike (Zeppelin Truppen) Barratt shows the limitations of our special effects budget as the airship hovers over Pottersville - the airshop is a Lego conversion by Dan Hutter.

McConnell: A mystery, folks. But what's this? There's pushing and shoving over there in the square. This looks like trouble.

Irish cop voice: Back, now, I'm telling you! I won't be tellin' ye again, or sure, you'll be regrettin' it!

McConnell: Ladies and gentlemen, I'm seeing a fight starting before my eyes! These workmen are lunging for the scientists with clubs and metal bars. One of the Russian gentleman is reeling with blood on his lab coat. There's a shot, and a man is down, and another! One of the cops has a tommy gun now and people are running and Ladies and gentleman, excuse me, while I take cover!

Announcer: Ladies and gentlemen, please stay with us. We now take you to a program of dance music from the Empire Lounge in the Ritz Hotel in Upper Manhattan. Gene Krupa and the boys offer some spirited dance melodies.

A mob of angry workers rush the scientists, while PPD officers try to protect the foreign dignataries.

McConnell: Ladies and gentleman, this is Jim McConnell again. I've moved to a position of cover and I'll stay on the air as long as I can to bring you this story. I'm watching the police struggle to protect these scientists, while people are running for their lives. I see men on the ground in police blue, and some of the rioters, too. It's amazing, but I've also seen these robots strike men down in defence of their creators, it's as if they know what they're doing. And that airship I told you about, men are dropping from it now, men in brown uniforms are descending on rope lines to the ground - I see a squad of them now over by the hotel.

Droning sound is heard overheard.
McConnell: NOW what? Ladies and gentleman, the airship has moved on, and now I see the silver shape of a Ford Trimotor approaching. men are jumping from it, and flying, each held aloft on a plume of flame. It can only be ... is it? YES! Ladies and gentlemen, it's America's finest, the Rocket Corps! Perhaps they can restore order to this scene.

US Rocket Corps land on rooftops adjacent to the main square. In the bottom of the picture, Chief Cruller leaves the saloon to take command of the police in the square.

McConnell: The square is quickly vacating as the surviving police escort the townsfolk away. I can see Chief Cruller hurrying out of the saloon to take charge of the scene, while the Rocket boys are conferring. Let's see if I can pick them up.

Rocket Corps Lt: Those airship boys look like ... yes, they are. Nazis! I hate these guys! Sgt, you take your section down there and secure the south end of the square. I'll take my section over and we'll get these Krauts the heck out of Dodge!

McConnell: The Rocket troops are flying into the square now, and as I look south, I can see more men approaching the square. This looks like trouble. Gangsters, by the looks of 'em. More than a few are packing heat. I can see Chief Cruller eyeing them warily, while a few newspaper boys are taking pictures. And ... oh no! Oh ladies and gentlemen, the humanity! The gangsters are opening up, a hail of lead. Chief Cruller and the reporters are bowled over like ninepins and lying there like broken dolls! Who are these murderous maniacs?

The vicious X-Men gang, led by my bloodthirsty son John, gun down some innocent civilians and Chief Cruller. These gangsters were in the pay of Dr. Evil, who wanted a robot specimen, but John interpreted his rules of engagement fairly loosely.

McConnell: Unbelievable, folks. I'm keeping my head down, but I can see the rocket troops confronting the strangers from the airship over by the hotel.

Rocket Troop Lt: This is your only warning! You Nazis get back on that balloon of yours and get the heck out of the United States of America, or we WILL use deadly force to remove you.

Rocket troops confront German Zeppelin Truppen at the hotel while the Pottersville PD struggle with rioters.

McConnell: To the south of me the Rocket Troops are now trading shots with the gangsters - I can see men going down on both sides. Across the square, amidst the warehouses, I can see more men in uniform - US Marines by the looks of them, and more trouble as what appears to be another mob of gangsters come marching towards the square. Ladies and gentlemen, some folks want these robots pretty bad, by the looks of things.

US Marines under their introspective and solipsistic OC, Lt. Walter, try to decide whether what they are hearing and seeing merits intervention, while another gang of baddies in the pay of Dr. Evil approaches the square.

McConnell: Those sirens you can hear are police reinforcements. More of the PPD are dismounting and wading into the riot. I can see some protesters in handcuffs now, being marched back to the wagons in no uncertain terms.

Irish cop: Right, ye Red scum, that's enough out of ye, to be sure, or me and me boys we'll be bustin yer heads open.

Police pursue their victory objectives by arresting protesters and removing them the little white rings on figures show they are arrested. To the top of the picture, Rocket Troops hold off gangsters, while to the right, more Rocketeers face off against Nazis, both sides keeping their weapons trained on one another. Meanwhile, the robots have formed a square to protect the Soviet scientists in the centre.

Another phase of the game involved the local Tong gang facing off against cultists. Here we see the Tong skulking in a sinister manner through the alleys of Pottersville. McConnell was too distracted to hear the sounds of their gunfire as they ambushed and shot down several cultists.

McConnell: There's a loud gunning of engines now, I can see a delivery van with some crazy fool of a driver racing into the square. With a loud thud the van collides broadside into the wall or these strange robots. A figure from the van throws something at the scientists, there's a loud explosion, a flash of light, and at least one of the scientists and several of the robots are thrown to the ground. I can see blood all over his once - clean lab coat.

The notorious X Gang drives a commandeered van into the robots, killing one scientist and wounding another with dynamite. My son John was very proud of this unexpected piece of mayhem.

McConnell: Ladies and gentlemen, things are going from bad to worse! It's hard making sense of this! I can see the robots now ... they appear to be going beserk! These strange machines are attacking police, rioters, gangsters, without any discrimination! The gangstes won't be using that white van any more, I just saw a robot punch it's claw right through the engine block! There's the sound of heavy fire coming from the warehouses where the Marines are, and now the Rocket troops are firing at the men in brown by the hotel! What's this? More mysterious men in brown are rushing into the square from concealment - by their brown overalls, leather boots and gloves, they must be from the airship. They're rushing for the robots and for the scientists. The police are resisting, but they are too few. And that shadow again -- the airship is back! I can see rope ladders dropping into the fray!

Mike Barratt's Zeppelin Truppen break cover and rush the melee to secure a robot for Der Fuhrer and for the sinister dawn of a perverted science.

McConnell: It appears that one of the immobilized robots is being winched into the airship .. I can see it swaying ponderously up and into the gondola. There's machine gun fire coming from the Marine positions but it's too late, these mysterious men in brown are scaling the ladders and the airship is starting to climb. I can see the red swastika at the tail ... Holey Moley, folks, these are Germans, in America! I'm sure Congress and the President will have a thing or two to say about this. And now, with a roar and a whoosh, America's finest, the Rocket Corps, are lifting into the air in pursuit. Will they catch them?

Happy players - Keith "Rocket Man" Burnett, Mike "Hindenburg" Barratt of the Zeppelin Truppen, and Dan "Tongs for the Memories" Hutter survey Pottersville.

Well, folks, that pretty well concludes this report from Pottersville. It was fun and silly. The robots were amazing, but they proved vulnerable to ordinary dynamite and bullets. Mike Barratt played his cards well and was able to win the game by snagging one (albet a damaged one) to take home to the Fatherland for analysis, assuming that Sky Captain doesn't intercept him en route home. My police forces were stretched hard and unable to protect both the foreign scientists and the good people of Pottersville - Chief Cruller will have a donut named in his honour. The Tong furthered their mysterious ends, while the Italian mafia held back and let the Anglo gangs slaughter themselves in pointless mayhem. Final verdict, we all had fun.
This is Mad Padre, signing off from Pottersville, PA.

Mad Padre

Mad Padre
Opinions expressed within are in no way the responsibility of anyone's employers or facilitating agencies and should by rights be taken as nothing more than one person's notional musings, attempted witticisms, and prayerful posturings.


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