Archive for the ‘Theology’ Category

The Chicken or the Egg?

So Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road? And how far did the chicken move, on the other side of the road?

So what came first, Dr. Seuss? The chicken? Or the egg? A woman had to know. Because in the creation process, she alone had the eggs.

“I do not like eggs in the file.
I do not like them in any style.
I will not take them fried or boiled.
I will not take them poached or broiled.

I will not take them soft or scrambled,
Despite an argument well-rambled.
No fan I am of the egg at hand.

Destroy that egg! Today! Today!
Today I say!
Without delay!’”

So what came first, Dr. Seuss? I was still working on my dissertation about the rationale for the chicken to cross the road. Concentrating more about the rationale of why a chicken ever crossed the road in the first place. From there I would get to a conclusion about the egg.

In the history of chickens, wasn’t this just the same old story? About what was now called free range chickens. Only now all of the over-educated people were putting a new spin on chickens in the competitive world of globalization? Figuring out all the rules and legalities, after being taught or learning just what personal limitations were. The ones that could be caused by egg production. When people, strangers, wanted your eggs. For breakfast. And there was so little concern about the individual chicken. And where the chicken was headed. If the journey would be safe.

“Where am I going? What am I gonna do?”
“You don’t know either? No one ever knows at your age.”

The old nomadic ideal of the free-range chicken. Freedom inside and outside the tribe when the sky was falling. And so much like an isolated people on the other side of the road. Away from the tribe.

“Why did the chicken cross the road?” Had it all just been one large Grade A mistake? That ended up in the creation of all this corporate farming?

Who really cared why the chicken crossed the road, any more? Being cognizant of a viewpoint of the road in the story. As to who really cared about the chicken and the road? Well, when lifetime decisions, in years when the census was being taken, affected public policy, there was the Environmental Protection Agency. Then the interior department. And the department of defense, if not Homeland Security. And if not quite health and HUMAN services, maybe the justice department. And of course there were all the insurance questions. If you would have coverage, especially after leaving the corporate farm, over the age of 23.

Notice the quiet presence of that damn road in the story. The one that young chicks took so much for granted. And the concern now about the inner structure, with all these budget cuts. Whether in this economy if the road would be rebuilt with tax dollars, should it be washed out. And what would happen to the chicken if the road would be washed out? Caught on the wrong side of the road, when borders changed. And all the worries about the eggs tomorrow, if the road was washed out. If the chicken could ever go back to the other side. If those wings could really work. And then if the chickens on the wrong side of the road would be considered undocumented, if not just illegal.

No fan I am of the egg at hand. To say nothing of those tomatoes. The ones which seemed to be manufactured, not created. So why had all those chickens ever crossed the road, in the past? Were these crossings affecting taste? Or the lack thereof. Who really cared? Did Publix or Winn Dixie, Safeway or Alberrtsons? Not Hyvee. Not Cub Foods or Rainbow. And not even Whole Foods. And was there even a Hinky Dinky store left.

Just like a woman had to decide. In this age of corporate farming, man, there were a lot of chicks. And eggs. And roosters in the world. Who could care about just one? It was, in this world, all about the reasons why the chicken crossed the road. And the eggs.

When as a way of life, farming had once become a culture. Not just a job, but part of every moment of your life. Like some kind of religion, from sun up to sundown. About the living arrangements, day to day. In a world where so many, chickens any way, were having a hard time with those living arrangements.

Free range chickens. As organic farming was making a comeback, after a generation of corporate farms. Having to decide. Hatching a plan. In such a fragile world of eggs. Decisions. Trying to decide. Not so much how all these chicks got here, but being cognizant of the repercussion –all those repercussions–once the chickens were here. About the future. And the affect of one chicken on the world. In a world concerned about YOUR eggs, and not the chicken.

In a world concerned if there would be eggs in the morning? All the demands for eggs. Was this the irony when farmers’ kids left the farm and then one day came back. So many farmers’ kids or grandkids who had become involved in cramming, chickens into cages, with an over-crowding like in the city. With the self-created punishment. The repercussions which came from putting all your eggs in one basket.

Why exactly did a chicken cross the road? Or an ocean? In this age of diversity, with so much conformity, what exactly was the attraction? And if she should elect to cross the road, would it all be worth worth the risk? The movement in the story, in an election year, when people were always led so much by their fears.

Deciding whether to cross the road. Like a chicken had to, a woman had to decide. Early. Because chickens laid their eggs early. And someone had to gather the eggs and make a decision what to do next — the decision with all those repercussions affecting every sleeping and waking moment. Those decisions about crossings, whether one day there would be some kind of epiphany. How would your chicken crossing affect the world? After having to then put all of your eggs in one basket.

Decisions, after once picking out the location, deciding when to cross. And after the personal decision as to where and when, how to live with a passion. And should you cross the road alone? Someone had to decide. Would it be good for the eggs, to cross the road?

To carry the future forward alone, or with others. And where the chicken was next headed. If the journey would be safe.

So who had time to wonder, to really care any more, why had the chicken cross the road? Was it all just about belief? So the reason why the chicken crossed the road was based on belief? Or a hope for a better future? With greater opportunity? When so many young chickens wanted to hold on to their independence. Or just travel and explore, discovering the answer in other cultures. Until you weren’t just sure what you believed about the entire process. In this age of diversity, with so much conformity, all the chickens back home all cooped up….by those living arrangements. So to take a chance on being a free-range chicken. Like the world should end up with less stress, for the chickens? with all this diversity, like it was something brand new?

The migrant. The exile. The refugee. Why had the chicken cross the road?

As an instrument becomes an extension of me, like the Land one day would. Did you note all of the misnomers that hide the ‘refugee’ in flight, including an emigrant who thinks that she/he needs to be invisible in order to survive here.

Leaving…..wanting to go back. Will I be welcome? There. These 800,000 refugees who were welcome into Germany would be the cream of the cop, with the resources and courage to leave. The educated one, for now, had crossed the road.

To a place to be determined. To a place you do not know. On the “wrong” side, where people think that you were an invisible threat. Like Cain, the first born son, born outside the Garden. So why did the chicken cross the road?

Leaving…..with the Fear of the Lord. Not knowing. And now exposed to this new invisible Fear of the outsiders. Who were these outsiders? Will I be welcome, by the outsiders? Will I expose my own so personal fear of the invisible Lord, in some how carrying a Presence.

So did it come down to one story, one personal story about a chicken –a grade A chicken–to know the answer? To discover the answer about what came first? The past or the future? The chicken? Or the egg.


A girl without any real religion background in her family life. It was not her fault. It was the way the cards were dealt. What she had written about her boyfriend could just as well had been addressed to God. Because those relationships really were not much different. When you felt as if you might be understood about 33 percent of the time:

“I wonder why I desire. For Him to know about me. I wonder why I desire His pity, for Him to feel sorry for me. I wonder why I desire for Him to have pity. And in that way, help me. It is a bit sickening to me. For this desire is not me. For it is not truly like me to desire so crazily.”

“It is okay that I am just releasing just a thought. The thought may be a feeling of insecurity. It is me stripping away delusions. They say it stems from low esteem.”

“Love and that strange mixture of enmity and esteem.” This girl acknowledges her desire stems from low self esteem. “Because in the end all that is necessary is connection. Because you cannot make anyone feel anything, you cannot make anyone do anything. Every soul makes a decision for itself. Connection is not about giving or taking. Connection is about everything. Connection is about extending. The decision is to extend, to connect. That is the choice. That is the purpose.”

Exposed to the secrets within, God did not understand true expression? God did not understand her prayer? When all that she asked was this connection. She was asking for His connection to her? From what she called low esteem which once had been named humility. “Why don’t you do it first? And I will follow.”

To have a claim to God. Through a tradition. “I have come here to love. It is now the time. The time to release myself. To release myself from all the hurt and anger, the pain and sorrow. It is time to commence life. Because I have a need to love and be loved.”


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We endow our lives with stories. “Mostly they are the same lives, the same stories, over and over,” wrote David Remnick, the editor of The New Yorker.

Expanded school days. Expanded school years. The president wanted the urban society to abandoned the agrarian tradition of long summer vacations for kids. Because the world had evolved.

Evolution. Charles Darwin and his theory of survival of the fittest. Because the world had evolved. I had read the news story on the eve of Yom Kippur.

Theologians and economists. They were a lot alike. Really addressing human concerns about inheritance. Really addressing human fear. About the future.

Those Days of Awe. That August 2008 walk…..To Know God. Thinking about passing on what was most important in my own life. and now those Days of Awe. With the start of a new year, the Days of Awe about the depth of feeling between fathers and sons, wives, daughters, with God. A day of remembrance. Passing along this day of remembrance. With the question in the rabbinical school, “Why would God not evolve?”

In these Days of Awe, what does it mean to be bound? Bound by depth of feeling. And then, how tightly bound in relationship, to God? This year? And then passing on the inheritance. In a world when so many people had difficulty saving anything, there was the conflict over the spending with the saving. In the rabbinical school, where the questions were asked. About the conflict. Between generations. Was the God of Abraham really any different than the God of Isaac, in the monotheistic world of Judaism? What did it mean in the Akedah story? Was Abraham going to kill his son because he realized the time was fast approaching that God was going to take Abraham’s life. What should be spent? What should be saved? How to pass on what had been saved? Was the actual mystery in the Akedah story about Abraham challenging the meaning of his life, the part he remembered at this point, challenging God for all that He had given to him? Was the story about sacrificing his son, the Akedah, any different than the same challenge Isaac would one day face over the issue of inheritance. When Isaac was blind and was fooled by both his wife Rachel and his son Jacob. The same stories, over and over. Over passing on what had been saved. And who to pass it on to.

The conflict in the Akedah story was over an act of dementia, over a pragmatic act of sacrifice which went entirely against the passing on the inheritance? Was Abraham in this case really trying to fool God over this obsequious sacrifice, which ultimately may have been deferential but was not well thought out?

Was Abraham, in his story, just a little more surreptitiously coming to grips with the question of inheritance, little different that the same challenge Isaac faced over the issue of inheritance. Coming to grips with authority over the truth in the world? As Isaac had to come to grips with the authority of what might have been at this point a father with dementia. Ah, dealing with loss of memory in different ways. The perspective of an old man. The perspective of a son maybe 30-years old, who might never come to know, as Abraham had come to know, God. In the Akedah story, what was his real point of view over revelation of the truth that might be lost? The same stories, over and over, in dealing in subtle ways with God. As an old man late in life given finally a child, a son, but asked to sacrifice Isaac, facing the end of his line?

In the pagan world, neighbors all around were using burnt offerings to various gods and goddesses. Sacrifice, to never get too comfortable about the things of this world. Jewish guilt. Or was sacrifice an Irish thing. Because good times were bound to turn back into disaster.

Perhaps Isaac had ignored all his life the things that Abraham deemed important? Perhaps Isaac seemed much too comfortable with riches. Perhaps Isaac seemed even much too comfortable about his relationship with God. When for Abraham it had always been a struggle.

Stories. Mostly they are the same lives, the same stories, over and over, wrote David Remnick. With expanded school days. Expanded school years. As the old paradigms unravel? Yeah, theologians and economists were a lot alike. Really addressing human concerns about inheritance, and studying the signs. The signs of change.

Looking for the change in the story. To Isaac. To Abraham. To God. To me. About this unraveling world. My world. About the speed of the unraveling. And what it was that would be downloaded to replace it. With survival of the fittest, just a little more surreptitiously coming to grips with the question of inheritance and guilt. The changing point of view.

Because the world had evolved, from the same stories, over and over. With a changing point of view over revelation of the truth, about things humans deemed important Yeah, the president wanted this urban society to abandoned the agrarian tradition of long summer vacations for kids.

Passing on the inheritance. With too little thought about passing on what was most important in life. In the summer, where traditional activity could be ignored, for new things deemed important? This change, if this idea went through, would not really be addressing human concerns about inheritance, in about public schools.

Because the world had evolved. Though the academic world had evolved, with institutional public education, it was now, in this evolving society, with a changing point of view, all about money.

Mostly the same stories, over and over,” wrote David Remnick. In the changing world. Evolution. Not unlike printing more money, to solve problems. Bailouts in this evolution. Creating something out of nothing. The president wanted the urban society to abandoned the agrarian tradition of long summer vacations for kids, for expanded school years. In days of expanded currency, wanting kids to work harder. And because the world had evolved but not changed, parents would also have to stay home and work harder.

With the changing point of view, of this generation. Vacation time based on religious tradition would one day become a thing of the past? Not unlike honoring the Sabbath. Vacation time based on religious tradition would be renamed? In the age of diversity, where there was all this conformity to nothing. With too little guilt over the inheritance. Ignoring the inner need to be re-created. With recreation. But in the summer of daylight savings time, amidst the conflict over the spending with the saving, there was this new need for expanded school days, an expanded school year, in a world when so many people had difficulty saving anything?

Summer vacation. In an evolving world where more people will wonder the reason to save anything. Saving for what? Or to work harder for what?
Would summer vacation really become a thing of the past? Or just renamed? In these Days of Awe. Ready to sacrifice the kids.

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The Spotlight

There is a discomfort being the son of a famous man. I remembered how I had felt in the 4th grade over all this attention when you father was giving a speech at your school, in front of the entire school. From about the age of 12, I handled the attention better, but with a blush that could not be hidden, when perhaps I wanted to hide. Or flee from the spotlight. After about the age of 18, I seemed to have escaped to discover my own personality. In another state. At the age of 18 I felt like I had begun to establish my own identity.

That blush mechanism is quite a gift. This month the spotlight was back, along with an inner restlessness. It was unsettling to be brought out of my cave for a weekend. In front of a very very large crowd. Certainly the largest crowd in the state this week. Restless, perhaps, because my metabolism no longer produces a blush.

I handled it better when I blushed. In a sense that blushing mechanism, in the quest for identity, was an inward sense of embarrassment over all that I was inheriting, with an inward sense that I was not worthy of all of this. And here was a powerlessness involved, as no one could control a blush. In a sense my recent restlessness was over the missing blush, that outward sign to the world of inner restlessness.

In a sense my recent weekend in a spotlight made me reflect at a lesson I learned at the point in my life after 10 years in the world of business. I witnessed anger one day, a redness, and I could see the anger was not actually directed at me. I remembered an awakening, not to take any of it personally. At least in the business world.

The prophet is never welcome in his hometown. I have two friends who I met in high school, both of whom went to Jesuit universities separated by 1400 miles. People I have known who had both left there hometown, established a growing identity, and came back. They both spent post graduate years at the same college. They are sons of well-known fathers.

This month, in a way perhaps that only their families now could see, their families came in conflict. It is apt to become deeply personal. In a public spotlight. Those relationships, over the state of the world.

That boy in the temple. Who stayed out of the spotlight. From the age of 12 through the age of 30. Under parents who somehow knew the importance of keeping the world away. That boy in the temple who had to take everything personally and discover some kind of response to all of it. Who had to make his own resolution, however divinely inspired. Outside of any real spotlight. Away from the stage. In a quiet place. In school.

That boy in the temple, who stayed out of the spotlight. So this son of God could find his placed in the real world. Witnessing the joy and the pain of ordinary life. And learning to take things personally, without a metabolism that produced a blush. Because he had a Father who had to take everything personally. And because he had to discover some kind of response to all of it.

Taking things personally. When so many do not to take any of it personally? Son of God, and having to take everything personally. Wow! How do you come to grips with that? And then over the state of the world.

Boys wanting to prove greatness….in games, in school, in business. Boys all trying to prove our worth. The irony was that in the process as boys were all trying to prove our worth, most of us never learned humility.

Wanting to prove greatness….how do you come to grips inside and outside the spotlight, over the state of the world? Amidst the quest for identity which could never be escaped from?

The Job of a Moral Theologian

Risk Management and good moral theology: where was a moral theologian when you needed one? Risk Management was described as good judgment calls.

If you cannot control health care payments, you cannot control insurance premiums. If you could not control who could acquire the most updated MRI machine, you could not control competition. Your urban hospital was going to be tested like rural hospitals were 25 years ago. Hospitals that were being killed in this current depression, with no control over the falling reimbursement for health care. As more and more people went uninsured.

Your doctors knew that if you cannot control health care payments, you cannot control insurance premiums. Thus the health care issues of 2009, with artificial deadlines of 10 days. When costs were out of control. Because with health care, no insurance company could say no, when a health care contract was written covering health care expense, without a rationale.

Population Control. Immigration. If you could not control the population numbers, you could not control government costs. If you could not balance budgets, or have some control over the number of citizens, you could not control the economy in a competitive world economy.

Future markets. I used to work across the street from the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. In the Age of the Ascent of Money. If you talked to a future trader, you learned that actions have unexpected outcome in human affairs. Future traders were hedging bets, with option contracts. Agreed prices when the seeds are planted. Agreed prices before oil or gold was taken out of the earth. Options. Hedge Funds. Derivatives.

The uncertain futures, beyond insurance. Falling family size. The universal desire to be rich, in a nation with borders. Balanced budgets. Border that were defended against neighbors. With defense departments.

Social Security. Amidst boom and bust cycles. Population Control. Until the demographics showed falling birth rates. Where the youth would not be able to sustain the medical bills of their parents. The numbers were not there. Thus the meager reserves which would not sustain either Medicare or Social Security. In addition to the health care crisis.

“The most controversial task of moral theology is to help people live their faith in the light of the times … to help them face new questions and not just to repeat or attack” the old formulas, Mercy Sr. Margaret Farley told the National Catholic Reporter.


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Memorial Day. Remembering the past. The great tradition. Amidst all this change.

Amidst the change. Searching for God. And searching for love. Amidst all the change.

Was there honesty in my prayer? In my words? Which reflected my actions? Amidst the change in equity. In my house. The changing valuations. The fluctuating currency value.

About that sanctity of marriage. How many times?
There were commissions involved with security. And exchange.

Movies. The Russian Revolution. History was not an illusion. Nor was God.

Real fear. As an export.

The currency. Amidst the change in equity. In my house. The changing valuations. The fluctuating currency value.

Equity markets. Falling equity in my home. When everyone felt secure with equity. It was as if equity was the purpose of life.

Memorial Day. Remembering the past. The great tradition. Amidst all this change.

Beliefs. Opinions. Memorial Day. Prayer.

History was not an illusion. Nor was God. Slavery. Sex. Gentleness. That Filipino guy the other night. That guy, wanting to have sex. Just sex. The nightclubs were filled with people like this. Without concern with equity in a relationship. Without concern for real love.

How to teach the souls of the young? Graciousness. Teaching the “gentle” part of “gentlemen.”

Choice. The choice beyond just having sex with someone in a relationship. The choice to marry someone.

As to those outward signs: you had to be looking. A lot of people passed them by without a clue as to what was going on.

Some got lost in the search and gave up.

Learning the kind of God to believe in through religious education.

Was there honesty in my prayer? In my words?

Opinions? Or beliefs? Communal beliefs.

The Ascension Gospel: Why are you standing there? Go! Spread the news of God’s love.

Communal beliefs in action were more than just opinions.

Notre Dame

May 11, 2009

Dear Members of the Notre Dame Graduating Class of 2009:

This Sunday, as you receive your degrees at Commencement, your joy – and that of your families – will be shared by the faculty, staff, and administration of the University. We have had the privilege of laboring with each of you to inquire and discover, to teach and to learn, and we will send you off with affectionate and fond hopes for the future.

During your years here we have endeavored to train you in the various disciplines and urged you to ask the larger questions – discussing not only the technical and practical but also the ethical and spiritual dimensions of pressing issues ….grappled with intellectual, political, and spiritual questions. ….The decision to invite President Obama to Notre Dame to receive an honorary degree and deliver the Commencement address….Yet, there has been an extra dimension to your debate….You engaged each other with passion, intelligence and respect…..At the same time, and born of the same duty, a Catholic university has a special obligation not just to honor the leader but to engage the culture. Carrying out this role of the Catholic university ….we must be a place where people of good will are received with charity, are able to speak, be heard, and engage in responsible and reasoned dialogue.

The President’s visit to Notre Dame can help lead to broader engagement ….on matters of human life and human dignity…..Remember, though, that this day is your day.

In Notre Dame,

Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C.

Break-ups and Break-downs

Break ups. Relationships. In the age of divorce. Break downs. Over and over.

Sex. Religion. Relationships. The highest rating Ted Koppel “Nightline” show ever had was the Jim and Tammy Faye Baker focus. When Jim got caught having an affair.

Good Friday. I was there in the Philippines a few years back. I had a guy from Canada approach me in the Cebu City airport. He wanted to know where to stay and he spotted my travel guide. We shared a taxi into town with another American. And he proceeded to tell his exploits about sex that he had had in over 6 weeks in the country. Every night a different woman. Why they would let this slimeball touch them, I did not know. Survival of the species. I soon discovered that it was because of poverty, because of the survival of their families. In places where unemploment reached 50%.

Good Friday and actual crucifixions. There was an actual place in the Philippines where I could go to witness someone being nailed to a cross on Good Friday. The Christian churches highly discouraged this. But every year about 5 or 6 guys go ahead with a real enactment of what a lawyer would call wrongful detention, followed by wrongful termination. On Good Friday. At first I was gonna go on this 90 mile trip. Until I gave it some thought.

A Marine asking to get help is a pretty rare thing. A request for help by a Marine is an admission of failure. No one wanted to be a drag on his company. Someone who is suffering is not a big help to the military. You better pay attention if you ever witness such an event. Breakdowns.

They happened in every war in history. People did not like to talk about them. It was all about relationships.

Good Friday. 1987. It was all about relationships. Being human. My ninety-year old grandfather was being cared for by his 86-year old wife. And her care was keeping him out of a nursing home. He was a wonderful man but at about this stage of life some of the demons that had laid low from his infantry days in World War I came out. I remember making a Holy Saturday call to check in my my grandfather and there was terror in my grandmother’s voice. I was at their home after a 90 mile ride in no time. He had threatened violence for the first time in his 60-some year marriage. Something had to be done.

Break ups and break downs. Over and over. A Marine asking to get help is pretty rare. A Marine asking for help, is admitting failure. Someone who is suffering is not a big help to the military. A drag on your company.

This post traumatic stress syndrome could never be escaped. It would be with us always. When there were wars.

Relationships. Broken. survival. Redeployed. The wounded. This was just not gonna work. This sending the weak, the cripples back to war. Those ravaged in spirit once.

Reactivated. Redeployed. I saw “Frontline” last night on PBS. The show was all about post traumatic stress syndrome. It made me think of my grandfather’s youngest great grandson. The kid was more than 100 years younger than his great-grandfather. And I thought about one of these Iraq War veterans. He looked younger than 20. He had been a 4-year old once like my grandfather’s youngest great-grandson.

It got me pretty personally charged, this show. I wanted to do something. About broken spirits.

Break ups. Relationships. In the age of divorce. Break downs. Over and over. Good Friday and the actual Crucifixion.

Breaking up. And coming back…over and over and over. The relationship thing. It never seemed easy. In Salvation history. God and His relationships. The personal ones. There had always been a lot of break ups in relationships.

The Torah recorded the history of His relationship with the Chosen People. Things never really changed.

Break ups. With a mate. With God. Over and over and over. It never seemed easy. And the story was one long never ending sequel of failure.

Relationships. Broken. Some survived.

It was the same question as the war in Iraq. Whose fault was this? Clearly it was the pentagon when one of our sons was redeployed, with PSST.

Or in the case of relationships, it was all about the Creator. We never asked for this Good Friday venue. To be so strong or to end up so weak.

It was all about relationships. Being human.

On Friday, it looked like it was over for good. The last clear chance. The Messiah. He came. He went. He died like all of us. So what was the big deal?

Not even the Messiah survived all of this. An artist wanting to destroy his own creation? A lot like Abraham? Likeness: what we had become? Was this a similar perspective of Michelangelo, when he destroyed his Pieta? Or the perspective of an old-time baseball guy? Or a retired professional golfer, at the end of life, about the world of Tiger Woods? “What had I help create?” Humans with the frailties of human nature. With God in the story. Jesus came to be a carpenter? What was the meaning of all that, with God in the story? At the end of life, like the self-portrait of Michelangelo, wanting to destroy this work of art which he had worked on for 33-years of his life? Was that the Good Friday story? And now, on Good Friday, a fitting ending, to what looked to have been the Messiah, to God’s disappointment in relationship?

The relationship thing. With a mate. With God. One long never ending sequel of failure. And God and His Indifference to suffering?

The Son of David allegedly willing to give his life for his people. The Son of David, with an informed consent which Isaac never had. Behold the humanity, in this moment just like when David might have thought that he never was coming back. You knew the ending that he never did at the time. It is a much better story when you do not know, living in the moment, the end of the story.