Archive for April, 2010

Hunter Thompson on the Derby

"The Great Shark Hunt," a collection of Hunter Thompson's early work, includes "The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved."

When I was a journalism student at Eastern Kentucky University in the 1980s, my favorite Kentucky author was Hunter S. Thompson. I long ago turned away from the epicurean lifestyle he espoused, but I still appreciate his work, which endures as some of the wittiest observations ever written of life in America in the late 20th century.

As Derby Day approaches, I like to remember “the good doctor” by re-reading his classic “The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved,” which is my favorite of all his works — I suppose because it was about Louisville, where I had many good friends, and the Derby, which was the best party in the world.

Here is the text of that article, which he wrote in 1970 for Scalon’s Monthly. It was later included in his book, “The Great Shark Hunt.”

“The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved,” by Hunter S. Thompson.

Semper fidelis: Marine Cpl. Matthew Bradford

Cpl. Matthew Bradford of Winchester, a blind double amputee, recently re-enlisted in the Marine Corps. Photo courtesy of the San Antonio Express-News.

Semper fidelis, the Marine Corps motto, is a Latin phrase meaning “Always faithful.”

Few exemplify its meaning better than one of Winchester’s own, Cpl. Matthew Bradford.

The kind of injuries he suffered would have caused most men or women to throw in the towel, but Bradford is a fighter. While fighting for his country, he lost his eyesight and both legs to a roadside bomb while on combat duty in Iraq in 2007. Now he’ll be fighting for his fellow wounded veterans at Camp Lejeune, N.C., as they battle their handicaps.

Recently, Bradford became the first blind, double amputee in the nation’s history to re-enlist in the armed forces.

His courage and sacrifice have earned him many commendations, but I want to add this small one.

We should all be proud to know we have men of Matt Bradford’s character serving our country, often under the most trying circumstances.

Here’s a big thumbs up to him.

And I also want to thank the San Antonio Express-News for allowing us to reprint the excellent feature story they published about Bradford.

You can read the story at http://www.winchestersun.com/stories/2010/04/20/loc.785232.sto

For the beauty of the earth

We give you thanks, most gracious God, for the beauty of earth and sky and sea; for the
richness of mountains, plains and rivers; for the songs of birds and the loveliness of
flowers. We praise you for these good gifts, and pray that we may safeguard them for our
posterity. Grant that we may continue to grow in our grateful participation in your
abundant creation, to the honor and glory of your name, now and forever. Amen. Book of
Common Prayer (BCP), 1979, p. 840

Resurrection: Heaven is not our home

What if there’s life after life after death?

This world is not my home

I’m just a-passin’ through

If you grew up in the South in the late 20th century, chances are you’ve heard this old hymn.

“The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door,” the choir sang, “and I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.”

It isn’t very joyful, is it?

No wonder critics have called Christianity the opiate of the people. If you believe this world is irredeemable and that the only hope is a disembodied existence “somewhere beyond the blue” after you die, then you aren’t going to bother trying to do anything about poverty, environmental ruin or child prostitution.

But pie in the sky by and by isn’t the Christian hope. And most people — including most Christians — don’t know what the ultimate Christian hope is, according to N.T. Wright, one of the world’s most prominent Bible scholars.

Resurrection, Wright argues, is not about a spiritual life after death. It is about a holistic life after life after death — a life in which we’ll have new bodies and inhabit this world, not as it is now, but redeemed by Christ’s victory over evil and death.

Heaven is not our home.

Before you go thinking this is some kind of liberal, postmodernist babble, understand this: It is a belief as old as the scriptures — older than Christianity itself.

The traditional Christian belief about the resurrection and the coming kingdom of God is rooted in ancient Judaism. But the belief that the material world (including the human body) is bad and that we will have a spiritual existence for eternity after we die is rooted in ancient Greek philosophy. It all comes down to whether you want to believe Plato or Paul.

During Easter season in 2008, I read Wright’s book, “Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church,” and it completely changed my thinking on one of the  fundamental beliefs of the Christian faith. The book is a fascinating examination of how the resurrection is misunderstood by most believers and why it “is the element that gives shape and meaning to the rest of the story of God’s ultimate purposes.”

The Anglican bishop of Durham, England, begins his argument by exploring beliefs about life after death, including heaven and the resurrection of the body, then looks at the coming kingdom, and finally discusses what implications all this has for the mission of the church.

Let’s start with life after death. Wright does believe in heaven. But he believes it is a resting place or way station for the soul until creation is restored — not the final destination.

Jesus said that in his Father’s house, there are “many dwelling places.” But the Greek word for dwellings in the original text is monai, which means a temporary stop on a journey to someplace else. Think “inns,” not “mansions.”

In his letter to the Philippians, Paul refers to Christians as “citizens of heaven,” but in the next line, he writes about Jesus coming from heaven to restore our bodies and subject all things to his authority.

In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus tells the brigand on the cross that “today you will be with me in paradise.” But in the same passage, the condemned man asks Jesus to “remember me when you come into your kingdom” — implying that this kingdom is something that will happen in the future, not today.

According to the Bible, the New Jerusalem comes to us; we do not go to it, and there will be new heaven and a new earth, which will come together at last under Christ’s rule.

If we don’t believe this, we shouldn’t pray the Lord’s Prayer: “Thy kingdom come. ” Nor should we recite the Nicene Creed in which we profess that we believe “in the resurrection of the body,” that Christ will come from heaven to judge “the living and the dead,” and that “his kingdom will have no end.”

In his letter to the Romans, Paul describes Christ’s kingdom as one in which death is no more, that “creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay ” and that we too, wait “for the redemption of our bodies.”

Wright slams the recent dispensationalist idea of the Rapture popularized by such authors as Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins of “Left Behind” fiction.

A more orthodox view of the coming kingdom can be found in C.S. Lewis’ “The Chronicles of Narnia,” particularly at the end of “The Last Battle,” where the children witness the restoration of everything that was good about the world they knew — “the real England” where “no good thing is destroyed.”

What implications does belief in resurrection and restoration have for our lives here and now? If we believe this, Wright says, then we will be a church “that claims this world in advance as the place of God’s kingdom ” We will work for that which is good and true and beautiful. We will engage the world, not separate ourselves from it.

“If it is true,” Wright argues, “that the whole world is now God’s holy land, we must not rest as long as that land is spoiled and defaced. This is not an extra to the church’s mission. It is central.”

Throughout my life, I’ve struggled with contradictions in the church’s teachings, as many of you have. But in “Surprised by Hope,” Wright brings many of Christianity’s core beliefs together in a way that makes them coherent.

This book left me pleasantly surprised – and more hopeful than I’ve felt in years. I recommend it to anyone who wants to understand why Easter is at the heart of the story we find ourselves in.

Randall Patrick is the managing editor of the Sun. You may comment at www.winchestersun.com.

Tea party — Mad as hatters

It used to be that "conservative" and "revolutionary" were mutually exclusive philosophies. But in the tea party movement has turned everything upside down.

In Tim Burton’s strange film “Alice in Wonderland,” the Hatter asks, “Have I gone mad?”

Alice answers sympathetically: “I’m afraid so. You’re entirely bonkers. But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are.”

That’s a sweet sentiment, but Alice’s story is fantasy. In real life, madness usually results in trouble.

And in the American conservative movement, there is much madness about these days.

There has always been a lunatic fringe on the right, but the difference now is that madness has gone mainstream.

Just as Germans, Italians and Spaniards were led astray by the radical right in the 1930s, many Americans are being seduced by the sirens of conspiracy theories and bigotry.

In a generation, we’ve gone from Birchers to birthers; from Ronald Reagan to Ron Paul.

Hate show hosts like Glenn Beck ridicule compassionate conservatism and social justice.

Hard-line libertarians consider John McCain and George W. Bush liberals.

This isn’t your parents’ Main Street Republicanism. We’ve gone through the looking glass into a weird world where people invent their own reality and use the endless echo chamber of the Internet to tell millions of gullible Americans what they want to hear and believe.

The FBI’s raids this week on the “Christian warrior” militia that had planned to slaughter police officers is the latest and most extreme example of the dangers of right-wing fanaticism. Such groups grew in number from 149 in 2008 to 512 in 2009, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks them and sues them for civil rights violations.

We have politicians in Kentucky and across the country who support the militia movement, but it is the more insidious kind of extremism, such as the tea party movement, that presents the greatest threat.

When Congress finally passed the health care reform bill on March 28, there was a meltdown. Tea party protesters spat at members of Congress and hurled racial slurs at John Lewis, a living legend of the civil rights movement who had his skull smashed by similar goons in Montgomery and Selma in the 1960s.

At Sarah Palin rallies in 2008, her supporters echoed the Red Queen by calling Barack Obama a "traitor" and shrieking "Off with his head."Bricks were thrown at congressional office windows (echoes of Kristallnacht), and there were death threats against leaders. Sarah Palin called on her followers to “reload,” and crowds screamed “Kill the bill!”

Republican congressmen egged on the protesters, displaying their own signs. One congressman shouted “baby killer” at the pro-life Democrat who had led the effort to include anti-abortion provisions in the House bill. And of course there were cries of “socialism” to describe the Democrats’ moderate reforms, which are similar to those Republicans offered in 1994 as an alternative to President Clinton’s health care bill and almost identical to the state legislation former Gov. Mitt Romney, a Republican, signed into law in Massachusetts.

It is either ignorant or dishonest to call it a “government takeover” of health care.

On other issues, the rhetoric is just as misleading. Only a few days ago, an inquiry into the e-mail fiasco at the University of East Anglia concluded that the incident didn’t diminish the evidence that climate change is caused by carbon emissions — yet the radio loudmouths have convinced their listeners that the threat isn’t real.

The most bizarre falsehoods are that President Obama was born in Kenya and that he is a Muslim.

It reminds me of what Alice said about believing “as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

The hatred directed against our president is frightening. Last summer, a man showed up outside a hall where Obama was speaking, carrying an assault rifle. And at Palin rallies in 2008, her supporters screamed “Off with his head!” The Red State Queen didn’t disavow such disrespect, she encouraged it.

It would seem that the philosophy of the hard-liners who have taken over the conservative movement is the same as that of the mad queen: “it is far better to be feared than loved.”

Copyright: The Winchester Sun 2010

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