A Slow Journey

For a variety of reasons despair is in the air.   Scandals, missile launches, terror attacks – and on top of it, the Dolphins signed Jay Cutler.  I need a day for a repeat, this from five years ago. I worked for a while with my Amish “cousins” and I have to tell you I enjoyed it immensely.  Here’s why.

The journey starts at the funeral for my Grandmother, Arletta.  I was a punk kid from Miami not at all used to the damp cold of a Pennsylvania January nevermind all the relatives who drove junk cars and spoke with a deep accent.  Truth be told, as much as I loved my Grandma I was worried about missing the next day’s Superbowl, Dan Marino’s first appearance with the Dolphins.  There was a lot going through my mind as I had to sit quietly waiting for the service to start.

My Mom broke the whirl of contemplation in her usual quiet way.  “You see those people over there, in the plain dresses and hats and prayer caps?”  I nodded, they were damned hard for me to miss.  “They’re your second cousins.”  What?  I have relatives in the 17th Century?

I’d like to say what direction my thoughts went from there, but I can’t tell you.  Suddenly, a whole lot of things made sense.  This was the first time it sunk in that my Grandfather had left the faith, Santified Bretheren but Amish as a decent shorthand for us Englischers.  I was one of … them.

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Our Promised Land

First came God’s paradise, Eden, which mankind was kicked out of for not following instructions. After that came floods, slavery, fratricide, and a whole lotta smiting. The three great “Religions of the Book” – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam – differ as to when and where it happened, but all agree that at some point God became weary of it all. Those who managed to get through it and somehow achieve Righteousness are given the charter to a Promised Land. To a surprising number of faiths that Promised Land is right here in the USofA, and the delivery of the righteous to a land of great wealth is what Thanksgiving is all about.

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William Penn

After the election, it’s time to remind us all what it means to be an American.  This story, first run in 2010, is very important to me personally – and to our nation.  I hope you enjoy it as we all look ahead to a great American holiday.

It naturally comes up in my family just before Thanksgiving every year.  The Puritans’ deliverance to America is billed as a search for religious freedom, something which is a core value of our nation. It’s good that we celebrate such a thing, but do the Puritans really deserve credit for it?  The short answer is no, they do not, because they were seeking to establish their own theocracy – and across the ocean where no one would bother them seemed like the perfect place.

Religious tolerance as a founding principle of America came from a different source – William Penn, the “absolute proprietor” of Pennsylvania.  The reason that he doesn’t get the credit he deserves is murky at best, but may have its origins in a prejudice that most of us wouldn’t even understand today.  I think it’s time to correct that.
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The Slow Journey

The journey starts at the funeral for my Grandmother, Arletta.  I was a punk kid from Miami not at all used to the damp cold of a Pennsylvania January and all the relatives who drunk junk cars and spoke with a deep accent.  Truth be told, as much as I loved my Grandma I was worried about missing the upcoming Superbowl, Dan Marino’s first appearance with the Dolphins.  There was a lot going through my mind as I had to sit quietly waiting for the service to start.

My Mom broke the whirl of contemplation in her usual quiet way.  “You see those people over there, in the plain dresses and hats and prayer caps?”  I nodded, they were damned hard for me to miss.  “They’re your second cousins.”  What?  I have relatives in the 17th Century?

I’d like to say what direction my thoughts went from there, but I can’t tell you.  Suddenly, a whole lot of things made sense.  This was the first time it sunk in that my Grandfather had left the faith, Santified Bretheren but Amish as a decent shorthand for us Englischers.  I was one of … them.

Continue reading