A week of errands

I’m going to be off this week, but will still post now and then.

Now I’m off to buy Father’s Day cards. Then to the library to return my son’s books. Then to return my other son’s violin. And on and on.

If you missed it, HERE is my FaithBeat column from Saturday, about a team of Lutheran ministers biking across the country to raise awareness of global hunger. I questioned whether a bike trip can raise such awareness — who isn’t aware of global hunger? — or get people to do something about it.

Obama’s forgotten Harvard seminar

Much has been said and written about President Obama’s influences.

In fact, he’s written on the subject quite a lot himself.

But Religion News Service has a revealing feature about one, somewhat overlooked influence on the Obama Mind, a Harvard seminar that he took back in 1997 with an interesting mix of pastors, politicians and others.

According to Daniel Burke’s story, Obama was there as a community organizer and was one of the only African Americans in the room for the Saguaro Seminar.

“When people went around the room and said who they were, you could probably figure out why they were there,” the Rev. Jim Wallis, a progressive minister and activist, told Burke.

When they got to Obama, Wallis recalled, people thought, “Yeah, OK, why are you here?”

Check it out.

(AP Photo/Ron Edmonds)

Do ‘awareness raising’ bike rides really help?

I just got back from the Lutheran Church of the Resurrection in Mount Kisco, where I awaited the arrival of the Tour de Rev.

We’re talking three ministers who are traveling the country on a three-person bamboo bike to raise awareness of (and money for) world hunger.

Can three ministers on a very unusual looking bike really make a difference when it comes to something as vast and confounding as world hunger?

That’s what I asked the lead biker, a powerfully built, 60-year-old minister from West Virginia (but originally from Brooklyn!).

I’ll write what he had to say in my FaithBeat column for tomorrow’s LoHud/Journal News.

Check out their pretty amazing itinerary on their website.

Bill O’Shaughnessy (and Mario Cuomo) on ‘Tzedakah’ and ‘Tikun Olam’

I came across a commencement address given a few weeks ago at the College of Mount Saint Mary by Bill O’Shaughnessy, the well-known kingpin of New Rochelle-based WVOX AM radio.

If you know anything about O’Shaughnessy, it’s probably that he’s good buds with Mario Cuomo and quotes him often.

Sure enough, in his address, O’Shaughnessy retold some religious lessons offered by the former gov. Here is the tale, straight from a transcript of his talk at the Catholic college up in Newburgh:


Mr. Cuomo said on the radio one day down in Westchester: All the major religions – Judaism … Christianity … Islam … Buddhism … have only two ideas at their foundation. Just two.

And you don’t need a guy who came down from the mountain with tablets to instruct you on these fundamental ideas. Or an O’Shaughnessy. Even an ethical humanist … or an atheist … should be able to figure this out as a smart, sensible, practical way of living.

It started – this one basic notion – with the Jewish people – the ancient Hebrews – four or five thousand years ago.

They called this instinct: TZEDAKAH … which means we’re all brothers and sisters … we’re all alike and we’re all in this together as children of the same, one God.

Then they added the second part: a concept known as: TIKUN OLAM … which means: God created the world … but didn’t finish it.

That’s our job … to finish it. To complete it.

And guess what … speaking of Plagiarism! … the Christians stole it whole from the Jews with the teaching of the Nazarean – the Carpenter’s Son.

Now, I’m a reporter, a broadcaster … so I can tell you exactly how it happened – with great certainty.

The Lord, you see, was striding down the street one day … hanging out with some followers … and a wise guy … a scoffer (probably a professor of Chemistry) said: “I heard you were sensational in the temple last night, Rabbi!”

The Lord replied, with a smile: “Yeah … I had … a pretty good night!”
And then the scoffer said: “So … give it to me in a headline … something I can understand. But do it in a 20-second headline …or a 60-second sound bite (for Mr. Abernethy) … I’m a little busy.”

The Lord said: “I’ll do it for you in 10 seconds … Love Your Neighbor … as you love yourself … for the love of Me … for I … am Truth.”

So that’s it? … I inquired of Mr. Cuomo.

That’s The Whole Law, said the Governor.

God created, but didn’t complete … or finish … the world in which we live and to which you now go forth.

And we are thus called to be “collaborators in Creation” as the philosopher Teilhard de Chardin put it. (another Jesuit!)

And with the essential confirmation from the Lord … to Love Your Neighbor … that really is … The Whole Law.

Jesuit educators to gather at Fairfield U and talk ‘social justice’

Next week, represenatives of the nation’s 28 Jesuit colleges and universities will gather at nearby Fairfield University to talk about how to “strengthen the tradition of social justice” that is a hallmark of Jesuit higher education.

The meeting of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities will also include people from Nicaragua, India and Colombia.

According to a release, panels will consider “diversity issues, graduate education, international immersion, teaching social change, and Africa and social justice,” among other issues.

Winston Tellis, professor of Information Systems and Operations Management at Fairfield, said: “The attendees will share their continuing concern for the plight of the poor and disadvantaged around the world, and reflect on an appropriate response. The presentations include a wide range of topics on academic and experiential efforts in the developing world. Attendees should leave with a renewed sense of purpose and feel encouraged by the support from peers.”

You know that the many Catholic critics of modern Jesuit colleges, who say the colleges offer a wishy-washy sense of Catholic identity, will surely note that the conference has no clear theological focus. I could practically hear certain commentators saying that any group of profs, Catholic or otherwise, could be teaching diversity issues and social change.

Then again, they won’t be at the conference.

Father Rick Ryscavage, a Jesuit and director of Fairfield University’s Center for Faith and Public Life,says:  “Jesuits had an enormous influence on the creation of some of the greatest papal social encyclicals but within the Church today I find some confusion over how to situate Jesuit values – such as the promotion of justice – within the broader tradition of Catholic Social Thought. My talk will try to connect the Jesuit impulse of  ‘faith doing justice’ with the social doctrine of the Church.”

A profile of hate

The Wash Post has a good, one-day profile of James von Brunn, the veteran white supremacist who killed a guard at the Holocaust Museum yesterday.

They even talked to his ex-wife, who says she left him because of his lunatic views.

The Southern Poverty Law Center had been tracking the guy for a while.

Strange, but I can’t help wanting to know more. I mean, the guy was 88. How did he get this way?

Where was he raised? What happened to him? How could someone hate so much for so long?

The headline on the Post’s main story: “At a Monument of Sorrow, A Burst of Deadly Violence.”

That says it all.

88-year-old white supremacist behind shooting

The shooter at the U.S. Holocaust Museum is being identified as James von Brunn, a well-known, 88-year-old white supremacist.

He has a strong Internet presence, if you can stomach it.

According to his Website, holywesternempire.org, he served as a PT-boat captain during WWII and was an ad exec and film producer in NYC for 20 years.

He boasts of writing “Kill the Best Gentiles,” which he describes as a “hard-hitting expose of the JEW CONSPIRACY to destroy the white-gene pool.”

The AP adds this: “In 1983, he was convicted of attempting to kidnap members of the Federal Reserve Board. He was arrested two years earlier outside the room where the board was meeting, carrying a revolver, knife and sawed-off shotgun. At the time, police said Von Brunn wanted to take the members hostage because of high interest rates and the nation’s economic difficulties.”

Rabbi Eric Yoffie, President of the Union for Reform Judaism, just issued this statement:


That today’s shooting at the United States Holocaust Museum should take place at a site expressly created to teach the world about the destruction and devastation brought about by human evil deepens the resonance of this terrible act.

As we await further details of this afternoon’s attack, our prayers are with the victims and their families for a fast and full recovery. We also express our gratitude to the police officers and security guards who responded so swiftly to this incident.


Many similar statements will likely be made over the coming hours.

Coming so soon after four men were arrested for planning to bomb two Riverdale synagogues, this event is certain to raise old, old questions about the persistant nature of anti-Semitism.

I came across this post that a person who identified himself as James von Brunn write on a blog last year:


Jesus Christs tells us to love our enemies, forgive them, turn the other cheek, give them our cloak and coat; give away our personal belongings and follow Him. Have you done this?
Do you know any alleged Christians that have ?

Nietzsche said, “The last Christian died on the cross.”

One cannot love your neighbors and segregate them. Therefore. Multi-cukturalism is a prerequisite to being Christian. It is for that reason the POPE advocates open borders with Mexico. The word CATHOLIC means “UNIVERSAL” The Churdh ALWAYS has sought a united World under CHRIST. The ILLUMINATI too seeks One World Government – which may be why Henry Kissinger, ZIONIST, visits the Vatican so frequently.

James von Brunn-88


A lot of hatred for one person.

UPDATE: The Wash Post is reporting that the guard shot by von Brunn has died.

He is identified as Stephen Tyrone Johns, an African American who worked at the museum for six years.

Latest on Holocaust Museum shooting

Here’s the lastest AP report on the 1 p.m. shooting at the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington:

Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) — At least two people were shot Wednesday at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, authorities said.

D.C. police spokeswoman Traci Hughes said a person walked into the museum at about 1 p.m. with a rifle and shot a guard. U.S. Park Police Sgt. David Schlosser says one or more guards at the museum returned fire, hitting the suspect.

Authorities said the conditions of those shot were not known. Both were taken to George Washington University Hospital.

Fire department spokesman Alan Etter told CNN a third person was hurt after being cut by broken glass.

The museum normally has a heavy security presence with guards positioned both inside and outside. All visitors are required to pass through metal detectors at the entrance, and bags are screened.

The museum, located just off the National Mall near the Washington Monument, is a popular tourist attraction. It draws about 1.7 million visitors each year.

Roads surrounding the museum have been closed and blocked off with yellow tape. Several police cars and officers on horses surround the area.

Schlosser said park police SWAT teams are doing a secondary sweep of the building, but they don’t believe there is another gunman.

Sandy Perkins of Massachusetts said her daughter, Abigail, called her shortly after the shooting. The teen was on a school trip to the museum and told her mother students heard several shots before they were told to leave the building.

Abigail said some of her friends were very shaken, but all were otherwise fine, Sandy Perkins said.

The teens did not see where the shots were coming from.

Linda Elston, who is visiting the museum from Nevada City, Calif., says she was on the lower level of the museum watching a film when she and others were told to evacuate.

“It was totally full of people,” Elston said. “It took us awhile to get out.”

She said she didn’t hear any shots and didn’t immediately know why there was an evacuation leaving her feeling “a little anxious.”

Feds sue N.J. county over head-scarf prohibition

Across the river…the U.S. Justice Department this week sued Essex County, N.J., for discriminating against a Muslim corrections officer by not allowing her to wear a hijab or head scarf.

In a release, Loretta King, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, said: “Employees should not have to choose between their religious beliefs and their economic livelihood. Federal law requires all employers, even those having policies regarding the wearing of uniforms, to reasonably accommodate the religious observances and practices of their employees.”

The Newark Star-Ledger reports that in 2000, New Jersey’s Department of Corrections relaxed its no-beard policy after 33 Sunni Muslim corrections officers sued.

Gun sale at the church

No joke: A Kentucky church has invited people to bring their guns on June 27.

They’ll be celebrating the 4th of July and the Second Amendment, the pastor says.

Pastor Ken Pagano of New Bethel Church in Louisville (that’s him) told Peter Smith of the Louisville Courier-Journal that he was “trying to think a little bit outside the box” to promote responsible gun ownership.

He’s done it, I’d say.

The event — billed as an “Open Carry Celebration” — is being promoted with online posters, including one using a red font resembling splattered blood, according to the Courier-Journal. I can’t find this one on the church’s website, though.

New Bethel is a member of the Assemblies of God, the nation’s largest Pentecostal denomination.

The Rev. Marian McClure Taylor, incoming executive director of the Kentucky Council of Churches, had this to say: “Pastor Pagano assured me that the event is designed to help people who own handguns to be very responsible, and that the proceeds will all go for charitable causes in the community. Those two commitments are consistent with the high value the Assemblies of God churches place on human life.”

Pagano is a Marine vet who serves as a chaplain for the Louisville police. Church members have regular outings at a firing range.

The event will include a $1 raffle drawing for a handgun.

Reading about this made my think of a song by the Beat Farmers, a little known country/blues outfit from the San Diego area. It was called “Gun Sale at the Church” and included these lines (sung by the late, great Buddy Blue, a Syracuse native):

Well let’s pack up the kids
and take a break, get away
leave the hustle and bustle
of living from day to day
and I know that the crime
in the city is getting worse
So I’m going on down to
the gun sale at the church . . .
Well we’ll ask the lord to
forgive us for all our sins
and we’ll look at the latest in
gold plated firing pins.


What the heck. Here they are:

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Photo: Aaron Borton, Special to The Courier-Journal