[ by Charles Cameron -- still convinced we don't known nearly enough about religion -- with a quick look at the Kansas shooting ]
The victims of the Overland Park Jewish Community Center and Village Shalom shootings weren’t even Jewish, they were Christians — as the NYT reported:
A few hours later, a handcuffed Mr. Miller was shouting allegiance to Hitler, while three white people, two Methodists and a Catholic, lay dead.
Religion is in fact key to an understanding of the events in Overland Park.
Frazier Glenn Miller, one time leader of the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and virulent online Antisemite arrested for the Overland Park shootings shooter appears to have misjudged the religion of those he killed — but if we were to assume he was himself a Christian, we would as surely misjudge his religion. In his autobiography, available online, Miller offers us his own beliefs — a creed not of love but of warrior racism:
Every book in the bible, except one, was written by Jews, which explains, among other things, why the bible says the Jews are God’s chosen people. If I’d written the thing, my people would be the chosen ones. How odd of God to choose the rats.
God must be a racist, because He selected a chosen race. And, He practiced racial discrimination when he smited all those gentile men, women, children, and babies on behalf of the Jews. Sampson and God alone killed 10,000 gentiles with the jawbone of a jackass. And I own some valuable ocean front property in Arizona.
Love your enemies. Turn the other cheek. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. What a brilliant recipe to enslave the Shabbos Goyim.
Christianity is the second biggest trick the Jews ever played on us. The biggest was legalized abortion!
But, on the other hand, White Christians today represent the best of our Race and the best hope for our racial survival because, generally, they are sober, moral, physically healthy, and idealistic. The Jews too recognize this potential threat and attack Christianity non-stop with the vigor and determination of trained attack dogs.
I’d love to see North America’s 100 million Aryan Christians convert to the religion invented by their own race and practiced for a thousand generations before the Jews thought up Christianity.
Odinism! This was the religion for a strong heroic people, the Germanic people, from whose loins we all descended, be we German, English, Scott, Irish, or Scandinavian, in whole or in part.
Odin! Odin! Odin! Was the battle cry of our ancestors; their light eyes ablaze with the glare of the predator, as they swept over and conquered the decadent multi-racial Roman Empire.
And Valhalla does not accept Negroes. There’s a sign over the pearly gates there which reads, “Whites only.”
Oh, Glory day!
Humans, we are humans — Jews, Christians, Muslims, lovers, haters. How often and in how many contexts must we repeat Shylock‘s words?
If you prick us, do we not bleed?
if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison
us, do we not die?
For a fuller insight into Odinism as a contemporary neo-Pagan faith, and the relation of some though not all forms of that faith to the radical right, I’d recommend the relevant section in:
[ by Charles Cameron -- baruch hashem, exomologoumai soi, alhamdulillah ]
In the upper panel, Rev. David Buck, an Episcopal priest, sits on the bench outside his church in Davidson, NC, that’s part of sculptor Timothy Schmalz‘s bronze piece, Homeless Jesus that he’s bought and installed there:
The Christ figure is shrouded in a blanket the only indication that it is Jesus is the visible wounds on the feet.
In the lower panel, we see Fatima Qassem, age 6, another victim of the warfare in Aleppo, who was wounded by machine-gun fire in both knees. As the AP report puts it:
Two months into the battle for Syria’s largest city, civilians are still bearing the brunt of the daily assaults of helicopter gunships, roaring jets and troops fighting in the streets.
Fatima’s doctor, Dr. Osman al-Haj Osman, works twenty-hour days, and is reported as saying:
My life is just the wounded and the dead.
I composed this post yesterday from two images I ran across, each of them showing a different figure in roughly the same pose. The similarities between them once again raised the question in my mind whether religion is no more than the shell of a nut whose kernel is loving-kindness, or whether it is more — the very tree itself perhaps?
For myself I tend to think that while loving-kindness may be the essence, religion continues to bring us a wealth of tradition and imagery from which to draw inspiration:
But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.
As one who is a wayfarer at heart, and who has been received with hospitality in many traditions, those words from Isaiah are waybread indeed.
In my own view, the “proof text” Rev. Buck quoted in the article, Matthew 25.40, is of critical importance not because of the ontological status of the person who spoke it, nor because it was included in a canonical collection of sayings by and about him that was gathered and officially sanctioned in the centuries following his death, nor indeed with regard only to an “actual homeless person” in a single neighborhood in North Carolina — but because it rings high and true, semper et ubique:
Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
[ by Charles Cameron -- in mental preparation for tonight's lunar eclipse, together with some quick eschatology, plenty of blood, and an Incan jaguar ]
The upper panel, above, shows a detail of Hieronymus Bosch‘s Ghent representation of Christ carrying the Cross to his crucifixion, the focus here being on three of Bosch’s contemporaries depicted as citizens of Christ’s Jerusalem, mocking Christ as he moves through the crowd…
… while the lower panel has substituted for one of them the face of John Hagee, televangelist, senior pastor of the Cornerstone megahurch in San Antonio, TX, and (eventually disowned) endorser of Sen. John McCain‘s 2008 presidential bid.
Hagee is in the news at the moment as a major promoter of the “Four Blood Moons” end times theory, according to which tonight will witness the first of four total lunar eclipses announcing — like four dots the style-books suggest when an ellipsis follows a period — the Great and Terrible Day of the Lord referred to in Joel 2.31:
Hre is Hagee, interviewed on this subject:
There are numerous biblical references to Joel 2.31:
The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the LORD come.
I shall not list all of them, but have selected those which most closely address the topic at hand.
Luke 21:25 picks up the theme:
And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring;
And in Acts 2:20, the same author specifies these signs:
The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come:
Unsurprisingly, the Revelation of John, 6:12 locates the blood moon in the sequence of Seven Seals that David Koresh was so concerned with…
And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood;
And lest there be any doubt, Joel himself in the same chapter at 2:11 makes it clear that the Great and Terrible Day will in fact be both Great and Terrible…
And the LORD shall utter his voice before his army: for his camp is very great: for he is strong that executeth his word: for the day of the LORD is great and very terrible; and who can abide it?
It is something of a relief, then, to turn to NASA, where “signs in the skies” are considered more as opportunities for star-gazing than as precursors of Doom.
These things happen, NASA might say — tongue in cheek, perhaps — once in a blue moon…
NASA’s eclipse website draws its data from Goddard astrophysicist Fred Espenak, whose “Mr Eclipse” website offers the following diagram of tonight’s eclipse and blood moon…
April’s eclipse is the first to two total lunar eclipses in 2014. The second eclipse is on October 08 and it too is visible from the USA. In this case, the western USA sees the entire eclipse while the eastern USA misses the end of the eclipse because the Moon sets while the eclipse is still in progress.
These two eclipses of  are the first of four consecutive total lunar eclipses (each separated by six months) – a series known as a tetrad. The third and fourth eclipses of the tetrad occur on April 04, 2015 and Sept. 28, 2015 .
During the 5000-year period from 2000 BCE through 3000 CE, there are 3479 total lunar eclipses. Approximately 16.3% (568) of all total eclipses belong to one of the 142 tetrads occurring over this period. The mechanism causing tetrads involves the eccentricity of Earth’s orbit in conjunction with the timing of eclipse seasons. During the present millennium, the first eclipse of every tetrad occurs during the period February to July. In later millennia, the first eclipse date gradually falls later in the year because of precession.
Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli first pointed out that the frequency of tetrads is variable over time. He noticed that tetrads were relatively plentiful during one 300-year interval, while none occurred during the next 300 years. For example, there are no tetrads from 1582 to 1908, but 17 tetrads occur during the following 2 and 1/2 centuries from 1909 to 2156. The ~565-year period of the tetrad “seasons” is tied to the slowly decreasing eccentricity of Earth’s orbit. Consequently, the tetrad period is gradually decreasing (Meeus, 2004). In the distant future when Earth’s eccentricity is 0 (about 470,000 years from now), tetrads will no longer be possible.
Far from seeing them as signs of Doom, Espenak views them as inherently lovely:
Although total eclipses of the Moon are of limited scientific value, they are remarkably beautiful events
Nota bene:If Hagee is prophecy’s Espernak, Espenak is science’s Hagee.
Tibetans, like those from many other cultures, take eclipses seriously, though they seem to see them more as opportunities than as prophecies of doom. A dear friend pointed me to this invitation to practice from the Tibetan meditation master, Chojje Rinpoche:
On a lunar eclipse, please accomplish practice because whatever you do at this time, good or bad, multiplies many, many times over. It is therefore a great opportunity for you to accumulate merit which is really needed for the betterment of our lives and for our enlightenment. So, whenever an opportunity like this comes, we should not waste it but rather focus on practice, charity and all good works.
According to National Geographic, on the other hand, the blood red moon seen during a total lunar eclipse was attributed by the Inca to a jaguar attacking and eating the moon:
The big cat’s assault explained the rusty or blood-red color that the moon often turned during a total lunar eclipse.
Okay, enough. There’s positive contempt dripping on Pastor Hagee from whoever placed him in that photoshopped version of Bosch’s painting:
Gary DeMar is President of American Vision, where this headline and a more recent attack on Hagee — Why John Hagee is certainly wrong about “blood moons” — can be found. DeMar, following Rousas John Rushdoony, hopes for the eventual imposition of “Biblical Law” in America, and like Rushdoony holds a post-millennialist view of the end times. Wikipedia gives this brief explanation:
Postmillennialism expects that eventually the vast majority of men living will be saved. Increasing gospel success will gradually produce a time in history prior to Christ’s return in which faith, righteousness, peace, and prosperity will prevail in the affairs of men and of nations. After an extensive era of such conditions Jesus Christ will return visibly, bodily, and gloriously, to end history with the general resurrection and the final judgment after which the eternal order follows.
You can see, then, why post-millennialists hold the pre-millennialist enthusiasms and “soon coming” expectations of the likes of Harold Camping and John Hagee in low esteem…
Let’s return to the Bosch painting itself. Arguably missing both from the detail (upper panel, above) and its use by American Vision (upper panel, below) is the face of Christ — which in fact appears twice in Bosch’s original painting…
… once just above and to the left of the three who mock Christ, and once more imprinted on the veil with which Veronica — according to a legend enshrined in the sixth of the Stations of the Cross — wiped Christ’s face, lower left. In the mind and heart of Bosch, too — amid all the brute human throng he sees so clearly — that one face leaves its unforgettable imprint…
I leave you with Albrecht Durer‘s images of the Veronica:
Québec officially doesn’t seem to like what it terms “conspicuous religious symbols” — including the pictured “large” crucifix, hijab, and dastar (upper panel above, top row, left to right) and niqab and kippa (bottom row, left to right).
I suppose that’s one way to achieve uniformity — maybe peacocks should be asked to tone down their feathers until they’re more in line with pigeons, too — but it’s instructive to note that most of the folk in the Bangladeshi march for religious harmony (lower panel, above) would be banned from wearing their identifying symbols if they tried to hold a similar parade in Montréal, Québec.
In the tiny middle panel of my DoubleQuotes graphic, where you’ll usually find a pair of spectacles or binoculars, the Swayambunath Buddha, just outside Kathmandu, Nepal, looks on, bemused — having seen so much, so very much, of human nature.
[ by Charles Cameron -- Wallace Black Elk & Wounded Knee, 1975, & the loss of a great writer, gone to paradise ]
Peter Matthiessen — novelist, zen priest and teacher, and author of a non-fiction book that means a great deal to me — has died.
I felt a strange and unique bond with the man, because he wrote a 550 page book focused largely on a time and date that were of great importance in my own life, setting my memories in a far wider perspective.
It was late June 1975, and as I was traveling from Denver to Rosebud, South Dakota with Roy Haber, an attorney friend from the Native American Rights Fund, to visit Wallace Black Elk, his Lakota medicine man friend and colleague, we heard word on the radio that two FBI agents had been killed in a shootout at Wounded Knee, the reservation next over from Rosebud.
The news meant little enough to me — as a Brit who had only come to the States a few years earlier, I had very little sense of the elite nature of the Bureau back then — and when at last we arrived at Wallace’s place, I found a tranquil scene. As I wrote recalling my visit a week or so later:
Feelings were running high in the newspapers, but the little town of Rosebud seemed to be an island of good natured calm.
Little did I know.
My recollections of that day will give you a taste of Wallace Black Elk, the man.
It’s fascinating to talk with Wallace, for he braids his topics together, each theme weaving in and out of his conversation for several hours. He speaks for the Indians as though he was carrying their whole history in his body. “I’ve been in prison two hundred years, and I’m about immune to it.” You mean your people?” I ask him. “Yes, my people.”
He’s full of short, pithy quotes, sometimes humorous, often breathtakingly beautiful. “Grandpa Great Spirit planted me here. I didn’t come in a plane or a bus.” “The Spirit comes when we put our ears down and curl our tail between our legs and humble ourselves. The Spirit comes and comforts us, and shows us a pathway through the traffic.”
As I mentioned above, my impression was one of peace and calm as Wallace talked with me for hours about the Lakota ways — but the situation was a great deal more complex, and in 1983, when Peter Matthiessen published his book In the Spirit of Crazy Horse, I was able to understand far better just how tense things must have been, not only at Pine Ridge but also on Rosebud where Wallace and I met — and sweated:
Wallace Black Elk invited us to take part in the Sweat Lodge ceremonies that evening. It’s very hard to describe the Sweat Lodge. It’s a place of purification, the place where the Indians meet to express their deepest hearts in prayer. And at the same time, it’s a place of bodily purification, a Native American sauna. So the purification is both bodily and spiritual.
Physically, the Sweat Lodge is constructed around a framework of young willow stems, covered over with heavy blankets and rugs. It’s very dark inside, and when the hot stones from the fire are brought in and sprinkled with water, it gets to be very hot in there. The Sacred Pipe is passed around, and after smoking it and passing it on, each person makes his prayer. Wallace instructed me to address my prayer to Grandpa Great Spirit, and told me, “When your turn comes to pray, your mind will go blank and you won’t know what to say, and the spirits will tell you.” He told me to close my prayer with the phrase “all my relatives,” because “we are related to the sun, stars, moon, to all green things, to fire, the stones, to water, all creatures.”
I remember, too:
After the Sweat Lodge was over, when we came out into the wide South Dakota plains, we could hardly believe the sky. There was no obstruction from where we stood to the horizon in a complete circle, and above us hung the most majestic sunset I have ever seen. Wallace later told me, “the spirits said they would help you increase your knowledge and understanding of our ways and will show themselves to you, and you will actually see them the next time you come to the Sweat Lodge.”
Wallace had been involved in the 1973 American Indian Movement occupation and FBI siege of Wounded Knee, two years before I met him. In the words of Carter Camp, given in memory of Wallace after his death in January 2004:
In the natural order of our ways it fell upon Wallace Black Elk and his beautiful companion Grace to minister to the needs of the young men and women of the warrior society of Wounded Knee. We were a rag-tag group of young men and women from many tribes and nations from throughout this invaded land they call the new world. Our squad leaders and military planners were veterans of Viet Nam and Korea and our cadre were the youth of the red people. We could fight and we were willing to die without exception, but to be a warrior society in the old way we needed to be more than that, we needed the guidance of a wise man to differentiate us from the hired wasicu killers. So we turned to Wallace Black Elk to be that guiding teacher and his companion Grace to be our clan mother. It was a rule among us for each patrol or squad to be cleansed in a Inipi [a stone people's lodge or "sweat lodge"] and for each to pray for bravery and success in the old way. Uncle Wallace was called on to do this sacred thing for us, to make us worthy to fight and perhaps to die for our little nation.
The occupation of Wounded Knee was, from Wallace’s perspective, yet another battle in the long war between US government forces and the Lakota and other tribal peoples — this one specifically commemorating the Lakota Ghost Dance and Wounded Knee Massacre of 1890.
You can get a sense of how Wallace comported himself under fire — and the intensity of his belief in the sacred ways of his ancestors — from the following episode which Camp describes:
Once as we prepared to enter the inipi, the sacred grandfather rocks had already been heated and a dozen warriors were inside the lodge, the enemy began to fire on us and bullets were flying around us like mad hornets. My brother Vic and I were the last ones outside, just undressing after bringing in the rocks. When the enemy began shooting we started to get ready to run and told Wallace and the others inside… “they’re shooting!” Let’s go!” but Black Elk calmly looked out and said, “come inside nephews, don’t leave”. Quickly we jumped into the lodge and closed the door. Uncle began to sing and we all began to pray with him, we could hear the wasicu firing their M-16′s and machine guns but nothing penetrated the thin covering of the lodge. Calmly, without fear or hesitation, Black Elk performed the ancient ceremony while the shooting continued and we could hear the gentle rain of the bullets falling upon the lodge.
Soon we forgot them and sang, and prayed and learned to believe, in an hour maybe two the fight ended and we came out to continue our duties. The next morning the people came and looked at what had happened, women and children picked up hundreds of spent bullets laying around and upon the lodge and then strung them into necklaces as souvenirs.
Wallace Black Elk prays with the Sacred Pipe in the tipi with Asst Atty General Frizzell and AIM leaders Means, Banks and Camp prior to signing of Wounded Knee peace settlement. AP Photo: Jim Mone
Agent Ron Williams' car, June 1975, FBI photo
It was a continuation of that century old struggle when two FBI agents, Ron Williams and Jack Coler, were shot and killed in a firefight on the Pine Ridge reservation on June 26, 1975 — not thirty miles and twenty-four hours from where Wallace welcomed me to his home and introduced me to the inipi ceremony.
Matthiessen’s In the Spirit of Crazy Horse offers a detailed exploration of what was happening on Pine Ridge on and around the day Agents Williams and Coler were killed — and an impassioned defence of Leonard Peltier, who was found guilty of their murder in 1977 and remains incarcerated in US penitentiary in Florida today.
I cannot do the book, or Peltier’s case, justice in this post, but for those who are interested, Matthiessen’s book is required reading, while the Bureau’s account can be found on the FBI’s website, Minneapolis Division.
At age 86, Peter Matthiessen has written what he says “may be his last word” — a novel due out Tuesday about a visit to a Nazi extermination camp. It’s called In Paradise, and it caps a career spanning six decades and 33 books.
This would appear to have been written before his death was announced. The New York Times obit, also published yesterday, says quietly:
Mr. Matthiessen’s final novel, “In Paradise,” is to be published on Tuesday by Riverhead Books.
In Paradise… the timing could hardly have been more exact.
In paradisum deducant te angeli….
I offer this rendering of Faure’s beautiful In paradisum with prayers for the repose of Peter Matthiessen, Wallace Black Elk and Grace Spotted Eagle, and FBI agents Agents Ron Williams and Jack Coler: may they all rest in peace.
Perhaps Wallace should have the last word, as he did when I interviewed him that day in 1975, since he generalizes on the same theme: “I can see” he said, “we’re going back to paradise.”
Zenpundit is a blog dedicated to exploring the intersections of foreign policy, history, military theory, national security,strategic thinking, futurism, cognition and a number of other esoteric pursuits.