My Life is Movie Quotes

padresteve:

Friends of Padre Steve’s World
It is my wife’s birthday so I will leave you with a bit of silliness since I have been rather serious the past couple of days.
blessings and Peace
Padre Steve+

Originally posted on Padre Steve's World...Musings of a Passionately Progressive Moderate:

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“My mind is aglow with whirling, transient nodes of thought careening through a cosmic vapor of invention.” Hedley Lamarr (Harvey Korman) 

I have been rather serious the past few days on the blog but in real life I am usually less than serious. It is scary because whether I am at work, at home or out it seems like no matter what the topic, no matter what the situation be it serious, light hearted or mundane a movie or television quote somehow comes to mind. Truthfully sometimes I wonder about me.

However last night Judy found herself doing the same thing and of course giving me the credit, or the blame for her doing the same thing. I love it when a plan comes together.

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In one of my classes on National Security Policy we were talking about the limits of what you could do as a military or a…

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The Fever and the Fear: Conservative American Christians and Judgment at Nuremberg

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http://movieclips.com/FkTn-judgment-at-nuremberg-movie-dr-janning-explains-his-actions/

Yesterday I wrote about the lack of empathy among conservative American Christians and I drew some comparisons to the German Christians of the 1920s and 1930s who despite their reservations supported ultra-right wing parties and later the Nazi Party. As I mentioned yesterday this was brought about by the fear and hate propagated by those who had lost their favored status after the collapse of the Kaiser Reich, and especially the fear of what many Christians believed was the threat of atheistic Socialists and Communists. Their brief experiment with democracy which was devastated by political battles amid the 1919-1920 Weimar Inflation which destroyed the financial security of most Germans as well as the Stock Market Crash of 1929 which brought about the Great Depression made many receptive to the “Nazi Gospel.”

I think that conservative American Christians are going the same direction as they get swept up in the climate of fear, hate, distrust and perceived persecution at the hands of liberals, atheists, socialists and their own government. As I noted yesterday much of this stems not from actual persecution but from the loss of their privileged position as the dominant force in society.

I love the film Judgment at Nuremberg, because I think that it really does reflect how many prominent Germans who should have known better followed Hitler, and reflects how many conservative Christians see the political right as their standard bearers.. In the film Burt Lancaster plays a prominent German legal scholar and jurist named Ernst Janning.

“There was a fever over the land. A fever of disgrace, of indignity, of hunger. We had a democracy, yes, but it was torn by elements within. Above all, there was fear. Fear of today, fear of tomorrow, fear of our neighbors, and fear of ourselves. Only when you understand that – can you understand what Hitler meant to us. Because he said to us: ‘Lift your heads! Be proud to be German! There are devils among us. Communists, Liberals, Jews, Gypsies! Once these devils will be destroyed, your misery will be destroyed.’ It was the old, old story of the sacrificial lamb. What about those of us who knew better? We who knew the words were lies and worse than lies? Why did we sit silent? Why did we take part? Because we loved our country! What difference does it make if a few political extremists lose their rights? What difference does it make if a few racial minorities lose their rights? It is only a passing phase. It is only a stage we are going through. It will be discarded sooner or later. Hitler himself will be discarded… sooner or later. The country is in danger. We will march out of the shadows. We will go forward. Forward is the great password. And history tells how well we succeeded, your honor. We succeeded beyond our wildest dreams. The very elements of hate and power about Hitler that mesmerized Germany, mesmerized the world! We found ourselves with sudden powerful allies. Things that had been denied to us as a democracy were open to us now. The world said ‘go ahead, take it, take it! Take Sudetenland, take the Rhineland – remilitarize it – take all of Austria, take it! And then one day we looked around and found that we were in an even more terrible danger. The ritual began in this courtoom swept over the land like a raging, roaring disease. What was going to be a passing phase had become the way of life. Your honor, I was content to sit silent during this trial. I was content to tend my roses. I was even content to let counsel try to save my name, until I realized that in order to save it, he would have to raise the specter again. You have seen him do it – he has done it here in this courtroom. He has suggested that the Third Reich worked for the benefit of people. He has suggested that we sterilized men for the welfare of the country. He has suggested that perhaps the old Jew did sleep with the sixteen year old girl, after all. Once more it is being done for love of country. It is not easy to tell the truth; but if there is to be any salvation for Germany, we who know our guilt must admit it… whatever the pain and humiliation.”

Hannah Arendt talked about this in her book Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil,  her treatment of the trial of Adolf Eichmann, one of the mid-level Nazi officers who sent millions of people to their deaths. In describing Eichmann and other ordinary people Arendt said:

“The trouble with Eichmann was precisely that so many were like him, and that the many were neither perverted nor sadistic, that they were, and still are, terribly and terrifyingly normal. From the viewpoint of our legal institutions and of our moral standards of judgment, this normality was much more terrifying than all the atrocities put together.”

At the end of the movie Judgment at Nuremberg Spencer Tracy as Presiding Judge Dan Haywood concluded his sentencing remarks with this statement. It is perhaps one of the most powerful statement and something to remember as the Unholy Trinity of Politicians, Pundits and Preachers urge us to hate one another and those different than us. It is something that is especially needed in times of great societal stress as well as real and perceived dangers from without and within.

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N3BwK51YFgQ

“Janning, to be sure, is a tragic figure. We believe he loathed the evil he did. But compassion for the present torture of his soul must not beget forgetfulness of the torture and the death of millions by the Government of which he was a part. Janning’s record and his fate illuminate the most shattering truth that has emerged from this trial: If he and all of the other defendants had been degraded perverts, if all of the leaders of the Third Reich had been sadistic monsters and maniacs, then these events would have no more moral significance than an earthquake, or any other natural catastrophe.

But this trial has shown that under a national crisis, ordinary – even able and extraordinary – men can delude themselves into the commission of crimes so vast and heinous that they beggar the imagination. No one who has sat through the trial can ever forget them: men sterilized because of political belief; a mockery made of friendship and faith; the murder of children. How easily it can happen. There are those in our own country too who today speak of the “protection of country” – of ‘survival’. A decision must be made in the life of every nation at the very moment when the grasp of the enemy is at its throat. Then, it seems that the only way to survive is to use the means of the enemy, to rest survival upon what is expedient – to look the other way. Well, the answer to that is ‘survival as what’? A country isn’t a rock. It’s not an extension of one’s self. It’s what it stands for. It’s what it stands for when standing for something is the most difficult! Before the people of the world, let it now be noted that here, in our decision, this is what we stand for: justice, truth, and the value of a single human being.”

This is an unsettling subject and people on the political right and left in this country are apt to compare their opponents to those that were tried at Nuremberg and those that led them. This has been an increasingly disturbing trend in the case of hyper-partisan Right Wing and so called Conservative Christians who blatantly demonize those who they hate and urge the use of the police powers of the state to enforce their political-religious agenda. For all intents and purposes they no longer care about “Justice, truth, or the value of a single human being” especially if those human beings are not Christians. That may seem harsh, but sadly it is all too often the truth.

The terrible truth is that it is possible that any parties in any society, including ours, when divided by fear, hate and the desire for power can behave exactly as the industrialists, financiers, doctors, soldiers, jurists, civil servants, pastors and educators who oversaw the heinous crimes committed by the Third Reich.

Again, I am not calling anyone, even the people that I am criticizing today Nazis. I am only trying to show the logical end of the thinking that permeates much of the political right, particularly conservative Christians who are following a path that is destructive to the church and for the world. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer said: “if you board the wrong train, it is no use running along the corridor in the other direction.” By selling their birthright to right wing radical politicians and special interest groups who only seek to exploit them for their own power, conservative Christians, like those in the Weimar Republic have boarded the wrong train, and unless they get off that train they will find that they have no redemptive value in society.

Sadly, I doubt that Sarah Palin, Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, Michelle Bachmann, Tony Perkins or any of the myriad of pundits, politicians and preachers driving conservative Christians off the rails will ever understand this. Thinking themselves wise, they became fools. Fools who in their quest for temporal power destroyed more lives and souls than they ever could have imagined.

Unlike Janning, I doubt if any of them have the capacity to reflect upon their words and actions and realize what they did and are doing are morally, ethically and by every measure of humanity are wrong, and are evil masquerading as righteousness, and thus doubly worthy of condemnation, for if they are Christians they should know better. I only hope that the vast number of conservative Christians who have not completely fallen for their hateful propaganda; men and women who have doubts about the message of such leaders are able to discern the truth will pause for just a moment, and like Bonhoeffer and others like him stand for justice, truth, or the value of a single human being.

Those who stood trial at Nuremberg were all people that should have known better, as should we, especially those who claim the name of Christ and presume to be bearing his good news. I think I will be continuing this line of thought through much of the coming week, although there may be a detour into baseball or Gettysburg; so I will stop for now.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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The Absence of Empathy Among Conservative Christians

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“Evil, I think, is the absence of empathy.” Captain Gustave Gilbert at Nuremberg

Since coming back from Munich on Friday night I have been catching up on the news and I was nearly overwhelmed with the amount of vitriol, hatred and intolerance coming out of the Values Voters Summit. The summit is an annual gathering of right wing political hacks who specialize promoting fear in the hearts of conservative Christians by fostering a nearly pathological culture of victimhood and persecution, in which they are the victims because others are being granted the same rights and privileges that they have enjoyed since this country was founded. Prominent among all of the speakers was a lack of empathy for anyone who did not hold their views, and those views are reflected in the latest Pew Survey on Religion in America where only 55% of consistent conservatives believe empathy is a value to be taught to their children.

 

Being that I am a historian as well as a theologian know all too well. The consequences for the church when such leaders promote such intolerance under the veil of being the victims reminds me of what occurred in Weimar Germany less than a century ago. At that time, conservative German Christians, feeling their privileged status that they had enjoyed under the reign of the Kaiser and other local monarchs being threatened took refuge in various right-wing political parties and organizations, many of which entered alliances with Hitler’s National Socialist German Workers Party.

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The leaders of those groups preached how they were being persecuted by the now secular government which had many Socialists in it. Feeling threatened by the rights now afforded to others, including socialists and communists, but in particular those provided to Jews they used a similar strategy to smear anyone that did not hold their perverted views of church and state. They felt that they were the victims; the victims of a “stab in the back,” which caused Germany’s defeat and the collapse of the Empire.

 

War hero and pastor Martin Niemöller was representative of those that took the bait. After the war Niemöller who after Hitler came to power and he realized what was happening spoke out and was sent to the concentration camp noted:

 

War hero and pastor Martin Niemöller was representative of those that took the bait. After the war Niemöller who after Hitler came to power and he realized what was happening spoke out and was sent to the concentration camp noted:

“I find myself wondering about that too. I wonder about it as much as I regret it. Still, it is true that Hitler betrayed me. I had an audience with him, as a representative of the Protestant Church, shortly before he became Chancellor, in 1932. Hitler promised me on his word of honor, to protect the Church, and not to issue any anti-Church laws. He also agreed not to allow pogroms against the Jews, assuring me as follows: ‘There will be restrictions against the Jews, but there will be no ghettos, no pogroms, in Germany. I really believed given the widespread anti-Semitism in Germany, at that time—that Jews should avoid aspiring to Government positions or seats in the Reichstag. There were many Jews, especially among the Zionists, who took a similar stand. Hitler’s assurance satisfied me at the time. On the other hand, I hated the growing atheistic movement, which was fostered and promoted by the Social Democrats and the Communists. Their hostility toward the Church made me pin my hopes on Hitler for a while. I am paying for that mistake now; and not me alone, but thousands of other persons like me.”

Realizing the danger of how Christians were giving their support to such parties and the implicit demands of some for a theocracy Bonhoeffer in the Bethel Confession wrote:

“every attempt to establish a visible theocracy on earth by the church as a infraction in the order of secular authority. This makes the gospel into a law. The church cannot protect or sustain life on earth. This remains the office of secular authority.”

But this is the same nonsense being promoted by Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, Matt Staver, Tony Perkins, Laura Ingraham, Bryan Fischer, Ted Cruz and a host of others. Sadly, this vision of theocracy is very much in vogue in many churches and among conservative Christians in general no-matter what their denomination. Thomas Jefferson would be appalled by this. He wrote of the effects of clergy in political power:

“The clergy, by getting themselves established by law and ingrafted into the machine of government, have been a very formidable engine against the civil and religious rights of man.”

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Much of the thought behind the movement is from Gary North who posits a version of Christianity much like that of Calvin’s Geneva, and the Massachusetts Bay Colony know as Christian Dominionism or Reconstructionism. All of these leaders proclaim their desire to protect religious liberty, but for them religious liberty is a one way street, it only applies to them and the state should ensure that it does not apply to others. North wrote:

“We must use the doctrine of religious liberty to gain independence for Christian schools until we train up a generation of people who know that there is no religious neutrality, no neutral law, no neutral education, and no neutral civil government. Then they will get busy in constructing a Bible-based social, political and religious order which finally denies the religious liberty of the enemies of God.”

North also wrote:

“The long-term goal of Christians in politics should be to gain exclusive control over the franchise. Those who refuse to submit publicly to the eternal sanctions of God by submitting to His Church’s public marks of the covenant–baptism and holy communion–must be denied citizenship, just as they were in ancient Israel.”

The scary thing for me is just how similar North’s words as well as those of others to the Nazi Aryan Laws against the Jews. Please know that I am not claiming these people are Nazis by any means. That being said, I think that their ignorance of history, the Constitution, American jurisprudence which is charged by fear-mongering and vitriolic hatred of those not like them opens the door to much evil. Note how similar North’s comments parallel the Aryan Paragraph:

“A citizen of the Reich is that subject only who is of German or kindred blood and who, through his conduct, shows that he is both desirous and fit to serve the German people and Reich faithfully.” and that “A Jew cannot be a citizen of the Reich. He has no right to vote in political affairs and he cannot occupy public office.”

While much of their vitriol is directed against Moslems, who because of acts committed by Islamic terrorist extremists are all targets of allegedly “Christian rage” like that of Timothy Rollins of The American Partisan who wrote:

“this can best be done by enacting the Great Muslim Purge from our military and other national security apparatuses. These people need to be removed from every security post, even to be completely removed from all levels of government employment, be it federal, state, county, city or other municipality. This applies especially to universities….” 

Westminster Seminary graduate Doug Giles who writes for the Townhall.com website who wrote on one of his commentaries:

“Please note: If Christ wasn’t cool with irrigating irate Islamicists for facts, I must admit, I would still have to green light our boys getting data from enemy combatants 007 style. Stick a fire hose up their tailpipe and turn it on full blast. I don’t care. I’m not as holy as most of you super saints or as evolved as some of you progressive atheists purport to be. Security beats spirituality in this scenario, as far as I’m concerned.”

Or who can forget that lovable darling of the Christian Right Sarah Palin who told the NRA convention that “waterboarding is how we baptize terrorists.”

For me to read and listen to people who claim to be Christians show such little regard for other human beings is frightening. Personally, I am frightened because I know the history of Christians when they not only hold control of their churches but the government. The persecution, torture and murder of heretics and unbelievers, the place of privilege given to the elect and the second rate status of non-Christians in their countries; not to mention the wars of extermination blessed as “holy” by the Church, such as the 30 Years War, the Crusades not to mention the numerous other wars blessed by the church. St Bernard of Clairvaux who told those going off to fight the First Crusade:

“The knight of Christ, I say, may strike with confidence and succumb more confidently. When he strikes, he does service to Christ, and to himself when he succumbs. Nor does he bear the sword in vain. He is God’s minister in the punishment of evil doers and the praise of well doers. Surely, if he kills an evil doer, he is not a man-killer, but, if I may put it, an evil-killer. Clearly he is reckoned the avenger of Christ against evildoers, and the defender of Christians.”

But it is not just Moslems that feel the wrath of the Christian Holy Warriors, but Atheists, agnostics, the LGBT community, other non-Christian religions including the Jews, though most deny the latter due to their beliefs about the role of Israel in the end times. Christians can behave as badly as the those committed to the Islamic State or ISIL. Our history has nothing to commend us, for when we as Christians “hold the franchise” to quote Gary North, we are more than capable of committing some of the most heinous acts imaginable.

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Thomas Jefferson wrote:

“Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, and imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch toward uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one-half the world fools and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth.”

Philosopher Eric Hoffer wrote something that we should very much keep in mid when we read or hear about the antics of those speaking at the Values Voters Summit and others like them:

“The impression somehow prevails that the true believer, particularly the religious individual, is a humble person. The truth is the surrendering and humbling of the self breed pride and arrogance. The true believer is apt to see himself as one of the chosen, the salt of the earth, the light of the world, a prince disguised in meekness, who is destined to inherit the earth and the kingdom of heaven too. He who is not of his faith is evil; he who will not listen will perish.”

Sadly, most if not all of the leaders of this movement of theocratic, liberty denying Christians are so immersed in themselves and narcissistic that they cannot comprehend this. Perpetually the victim they misapply scripture to justify their perceived victimhood. Such should not be the case, and Bonhoeffer reminds us of the mark of true Christian faith in a sermon where he said:

“Christianity stands or falls with its revolutionary protest against violence, arbitrariness and pride of power and with its plea for the weak. Christians are doing too little to make these points clear rather than too much. Christendom adjusts itself far too easily to the worship of power. Christians should give more offense, shock the world far more, than they are doing now. Christian should take a stronger stand in favor of the weak rather than considering first the possible right of the strong.”

Captain Gustave Gilbert who served as the Army Psychologist for the defendants ant the Nuremberg major War Crimes trials wrote of his experience with them in words that at least to me could apply to these supposedly Christian leaders:

“In my work with the defendants (at the Nuremberg Trails 1945-1949) I was searching for the nature of evil and I now think I have come close to defining it. A lack of empathy. It’s the one characteristic that connects all the defendants, a genuine incapacity to feel with their fellow men. Evil, I think, is the absence of empathy.”

Sadly we have come to the point where many people who profess to be Christians have no empathy, or for that matter any real love for those different than them. History shows this time and time again. Christians who have political power and the “right to the franchise” have behaved little differently than the terrorist thugs of ISIL and I can say with certitude based on the words and legislative efforts of the people who dominated the Values Voters Summit, that they too would behave no differently. As I walked on the Odeonsplatz and went to the Feldherrnhalle in Munich where Hitler’s Beer Hall Putsch came to an end I could not help but think of what might have happened had Christians during the Weimar Republic not gravitated and become politically captive to the right wing of German politics and for many the Nazi Party.

The right of religious liberty for all is far to important to be left to those that would claim it for themselves and deny it to others. As Jefferson wrote the Virginia Baptists in 1808:

“Because religious belief, or non-belief, is such an important part of every person’s life, freedom of religion affects every individual. Religious institutions that use government power in support of themselves and force their views on persons of other faiths, or of no faith, undermine all our civil rights. Moreover, state support of an established religion tends to make the clergy unresponsive to their own people, and leads to corruption within religion itself. Erecting the “wall of separation between church and state,” therefore, is absolutely essential in a free society.”

With that I wish you a good night,

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Oktoberfest Retrospective: Gemütlichkeit, The Importance of Community

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Well my friends we have returned from Oktoberfest in Munich and despite a couple of bumps, the trip went well. That couple of days have been too full and I have been unable to post these thoughts until now, that being said I have given them a great deal of reflection.

Of course for most most foreign visitors to Oktoberfest is a chance to drink and enjoy the festive atmosphere, and that is not a bad thing. However, most miss the understanding of Fests such as Oktoberfest in the life of the communities hosting them. Oktoberfest is just one of many that Munich and other German towns observe, which draw their communities together in ways that most Americans do not really comprehend. German festivals draw the local community together in many ways, community groups, clubs, associations, churches and businesses contributed to making the Fest, be it a major event like Oktoberfest or Fests conducted in small communities. Admittedly some American towns and cities have similar events, but with the exception of some major metropolitan centers with diverse and proud ethnic communities, they usually are a singular annual observance.

German cities and towns usually have a good number of these events, which draw their people together throughout the year. In fact they are somewhat linked to seasons, the church calendar, and important crops or products that their town is known for producing. While all are festive each have a different emphasis and different feel. Oktoberfest in Munich is the largess of its type, not just in Germany but the world, but it is not alone, many towns also celebrate their own Oktoberfest which are not clones of the Munich event, instead they reflect the differences in culture and tradition throughout Germany.

The Germans take life and work seriously, but unlike many, if not most of us, they know when business stops and fun, family and community begin. When people leave work they leave work, and even the business culture, in which stores are not open 24 hours or on Sundays provide Germans the opportunity to spend good amounts of time with family, their neighbors and friends as they meet for dinner or drinks at the local Gasthaus or inn on a regular basis. Likewise communities sponsor sports teams, and a wide array of other clubs which draw them together, everything from Rotary, to veterans associations, bands and choirs, hunting and shooting clubs and many more. Many of these groups sponsor events in which the entire community partake.

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The concept in all of this is that of Gemütlichkeit, a German word that basically describes a situation of where a cheerful mood, peace of mind and social acceptance are joined with the connotation of being unhurried in a cozy atmosphere. It also is understood in relationship to holidays where public festivities in the form of music, food, and drink help promote a sense of community. In this there is a sense that someone is part of something bigger than themselves where they are connected with being accepted by others while enriching the community.

Unfortunately for many Americans this is not the case. Unless one belongs to an organization such a various types of lodges, local sports fan clubs, or a local pub or bar where “everyone knows you name” there are precious few places one can experience this type of community. Churches like to claim that they are places of fellowship, but in my adult experience I have to say that most churches neither foster community nor are they places where one can go to be accepted. They are often the most cliquish, unfriendly, uninviting, and judgmental places around, and this is across the board. This cliquish and uninviting spirit covered in a veneer of spirituality and forced friendliness knows no denominational or theological boundaries, but I digress….

As I mentioned the Germans have festivals for almost everything. There are Spring, Fall, Summer and Winter festivals, harvest festivals, wine festivals throughout the Rhine, Main and Mosel and Nahe River valleys where wine is produced. I already mentioned Oktoberfest but there are Advent and Christmas markets in almost every city, town or village, Passion plays, celebrations of music, art and culture some of which are tied to the church calendar.

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In Bamburg, which is in the north of the state of Bayern (Bavaria) there is a celebration of its large number of very elaborate nativity scenes. In fact it is known as the city of nativity scenes. Some of the displays, of which there are over 30 major ones are changed every week to correspond with the nativity story, from the annunciation until the birth of Jesus, but are extended out to the scene of the first miracle of Jesus where he changed water into wine at the Wedding at Cana, just before Lent.

Speaking of Lent, there are a large number of places where Carnivals, similar to Mardi Gras in New Orleans, known as Fasching are celebrated, which all end on Fat Tuesday. In some cities there are Easter festivals, festivals involving the Patron Saint of the city, or state, and all of these are part of a holiday atmosphere.

The Germans for all of their serious nature and sometimes brusque manner of getting around do know how to draw the line between work and play and in the process build community. Their cities and towns are designed to keep a community connection including the use of excellent public transportation which means that most people don’t have to use up their cars sitting in traffic jams on the way too and from work or to a major event. I like to drive, but if our city had good public transportation I would definitely use it.

Part of this is the difference in culture and how over the years our American culture has become detached from this sort of community. In many ways we have become increasing individualistic through the proliferation of suburbia and all that goes with it, including the abandonment of cities, and small poor rural communities. The fact is we don’t know our neighbors and that leads to a culture that devalues people, destroys community and actually being on more social problems including crime. But again I digress…

This was my first trip to Oktoberfest, and though it was crowded the crowds were relatively well behaved, those who are obviously drunk or out of control are taken out, often to the first aid tent. Likewise, crime is not much a problem, despite the crowds. What is amazing is how many people lose valuables but get them back, either from someone who sees them leave them behind or drop them, but those who turn them in to security.

We experienced that on Wednesday night when the small pouch Judy had containing all of her identification and a debit card was lost. Of course we did everything we were supposed to do, retrace steps, talk with security and go to the lost and found. When I was at the lost and found I was amazed and how much was there, including very expensive looking purses, handbags and backpacks. The people there did not have it. They told me to come back the next day at 1PM Thursday when they opened and assured me that this happens all the time and that most items lost are returned.

On the way back to the hotel Judy was quite upset and my best efforts, as well as those of our friends at comforting her were of little solace. But on the U-Bahn train going back to the hotel, an older German man across from us was most kind, offered to help and did what he could to comfort Judy. That was really neat, and we both appreciated his concern and his offer of help.

With our departure less that 36 hours away, we could take no chances. Immediately on returning to the hotel I cancelled the debit card, which had not been used and contacted the U.S. Consulate in Munich. They too were reassuring, but since we could take no chances we reported her passport as lost and received a new temporary passport to ensure she could return home.

We went back to Oktoberfest after concluding that mission, when to the lost and found and they did have the pouch and nothing was missing. It had been a long 16 hours for both of us, but on finding it the mood lifted considerably. Our friends, who were doing last minute shopping met us at the Munchen Hofbrauhaus tent where we had saved seats. After dinner and a few beers we did a little bit of shopping, a quick bite at a local Gasthaus near the hotel we met our friends at the hotel to drink some of the beer that we had bought out in town.

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One of the cool things about this was how we have grown closer to our friends. It will be hard not seeing them everyday, but we are planning other get togethers outside of meeting at Gordon Biersch where we all congregate anyway, but cook outs, dinners and other things where we all contribute. I think what we experience with our friends is much closer to the way that Germans do life in community, and for us that is a good thing.

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There is a song that is sung at Oktoberfest as well as at other Fests throughout Germany called Ein Prosit

The band leader will get everyone’s attention and begins to sing as the band plays and everyone joins in standing, swaying to the music holding their beer steins high:

Ein prosit, Ein prosit, gemütlichkeit;
Ein prosit, Ein prosit, gemütlichkeit!
Eins, Zwei, Drei, G’Suffe!

A to at, a toast
To cheer and good times;
A toast, a toast, to cheer and good times!
One, two three! Drink up!

With that in mind I wish you the best weekend, and my wish that we all discover what it is to be in community and experience gemütlichkeit.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Oktoberfest Pilgrimage Live Blog: A Visit to Beer Land

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“Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” Benjamin Franklin

One of my favorite comic strips is Stephan Pastis’ Pearls Before Swine. A few months ago one of the main characters appropriately named Rat, since he is a rat, decides to open his own amusement park called Beer Land. The series of strips is amazingly brilliant, especially to true beer drinkers. I think the strip from that series that I most enjoyed was this one, because of the way Pastis linked a ride at the strip to the syrupy Disney ride It’s a Small World.

Today we did a bit of a road trip and took the U-Bahn from Munich to a small town on the outskirts of the city called Erding, for a visit and tour of the Erdinger Weisbier brewery, the largest brewer of wheat beers in the world. Before heading to Erding we had taken a short visit to the historic Marianplatz where we were able to see the famous Glockenspiel at the old city hall, or Rathaus.

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Now Judy has incurred a couple of injuries to her knee, ankle, and a couple of years ago had to her Achilles’ tendon repaired. As such sometimes a lot of walking causes her a lot, I mean a lot of pain. We tried to go out some yesterday but after a few minutes at Marianplatz but she was in such pain so we went back to our hotel until later in the evening when we went to dinner with our friends.

This morning she was in less pain but she knew if she didn’t get some European style crutches that she would not do well and possible be confined to the hotel for must of our remaining time here. For those that don’t know, European or as they are referred to in the United States Canadian crutches are far superior to the type most of us know and loath so much. They provide the user much more mobility and less pain to the armpits and shoulders because you do not swing from them.

So while she hung out with our friends I googled where to find the crutches in Munich. The word for crutches is krucken and they are sold at stores that specialize in equipment for those recovering from injuries as well as those with various physical disabilities called a Saniatshaus. The closest of these was about two miles away, so with google maps to guide me I set off. I walk pretty fast so it didn’t take that long to get there and when I did after the normal greetings with the lady at the counter I asked for a pair of crutches, which she showed me and allowed me to even pick the color. They cost about 34 Euros, which isn’t too bad, and for that quality I would have payed more in the U.S, had I gotten them at home. I made my way back by hailing a taxi to save time. Had a nice conversation about Munich, beer and the Oktoberfest with the driver and he delivered me back just city meters from where Judy and some of our friends had gathered. Since we were waiting on some of the rest of our group we had a beer at an outdoor cafe across from the Rathause where we saw the Glockenspiel do its thing when the clock stuck eleven.

Once all of us were gathered we boarded the U-Bahn to Erding a trip of about 45 minutes. Once in Erding we caught a city bus to the Erdinger brewery. We got our tickets for the tours and bought a couple of items in the gift shop and then went on the tour. The tour took about an hour and a half and was amazing.

I was impressed with how well a large brewery can make great beer using only the natural ingredients of hops, barley or wheat malt and water. There are no added sugars, food colorings known to be carcinogenic, Bisphenal A (BPA); cheap filler grains such as rice and corn as well as high fructose corn syrup, dextrose, and mono sodium glutamate, and even propylene glycol (a component of anti-freeze) are found in many mass produced American beers. This is because of the observance of the strict Bavarian or German beer purity law the Reinheitsgebot which stipulates what are acceptable ingredients in beer. Frankly the difference in taste is amazing as well as the effects, especially the morning after. But I digress….

As I mentioned the tour was informative and enjoyable. At the end of the tour, which cost 12 Euros per person we were provided freshly baked Bavarian pretzels, two large Bavarian Weiswurst, which are a mildly spiced and finely textured pork sausage and three half liter glasses of whichever of the eight styles of Weisbier that Erdinger brews.

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It truly was a visit to Beer Land and I am sorry to say that at each stage of the tour I kept thinking about that comic, but no, I didn’t see the German kid beat up the French kid for his Hefeweizen.

So Since this a religious pilgrimage, I will close with a quote from one of my favorite rebellious theologians, the eminent Doctor Martin Luther:

“Whoever drinks beer, he is quick to sleep; whoever sleeps long does not sin; whoever does not sin enters heaven! Thus let us drink beer!”

Have a great day.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Oktoberfest Live Blog: Munich Musings; History and Bier

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I have spent a total of about four years of my life in Germany. I enjoy the country and the people and I love traveling here because for me it is relaxing. When I have a car I enjoy driving on the Autobahn, and I find the mass transportation more than effective and convenient but a great way to travel.

As a historian who for many years specialized in the study of the latter years of the Kaiser Reich, the German revolution and civil war, the Weimar Republic and the Nazi period visiting here always intellectually stimulating. Munich is a very interesting and sometimes contradictory city, rich in culture, music, art, literature and scientific-technological achievements. Likewise it has always been a more cosmopolitan center of a very conservative state, especially religiously conservative as Bavaria is the heart of Catholic Germany. Thus there has always been a tension in the city, between the local more religious conservatives and business leaders and the more secular and progressive inhabitants, and the immigrants from Eastern Europe, especially more traditional and conservative Orthodox Jews.

This tension continues today with the large numbers of foreigners that live and work in the city. Many are Turkish guest workers and their descendants that have been in Germany almost half a century. But many are new immigrants from the Middle East and Africa, some who have embraced German life in a secular state, but many who have not and stand out in the crowd. In particular I think of the number of Moslems who retain their traditional dress and ways, which in many ways is reminiscent of the Eastern European Orthodox Jews, who likewise stood out as they attempted to maintain their cultural and religious identity.

Munich is the capital city of Bavarian, or as it is known here, Bayern. It was ruled for centuries by the Wittelsbach dynasty, which included “Mad King Louis” who built the amazing Neuschwanstein and Linderhof castles. That dynasty, with the rest of the German royalty was overthrown at the end of the a First World War. It was replaced for about three months by what was known as the Bavarian Soviet led by Kurt Eisner, an “independent socialist.” Eisner could not hold power and resigned in February 1919 and on the way to his resignation he was assassinated by a right wing extremist who held the views of the racist Thule Society. Eisner was replaced by a Majority Socialist leader who could not form a government and then by an Independent Socialist and Communist government. This government was both inept and brutal, it took hostages from the elite of the city as well as conservative reactionaries and had them executed. This brought a response from Berlin which sent a force of 30,000 Weimar Government employed Freikorps troops, including many Bavarians from rural areas, under the command of Ritter Von Epp to crush the Munich Soviet. After hard fighting against the Communist troops Epp’s men crushed the opposition and executed hundreds of the Communists and Independent Socialist fighter and leaders.

The city was still rife with revolutionary and reactionary elements and in 1919 a new political party was established. This party became the National Socialist Workers Party of Germany, or the NSDAP. Adolf Hitler joined the party and quickly became its head. He along with General Erich Ludendorff led a coup, or “putsch” against the government on the 8th and 9th of November 1923. The putsch originated at the NDSAP headquarters and Hitler led about 2000 armed members of the party to the Burgerbrau Keller beer hall where the Gustav Von Kahr, who had been appointed with dictatorial powers due to the unrest, was making a speech.

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Hitler took Kahr and other members of the government hostage and declared a revolution and enjoined those present to “join in this grave eleventh hour for our German Fatherland.” While many present were turned by his speech, the revolt did not gain momentum and in desperation Hitler ordered a march to overthrow the government. At Odeonsplatz at the bridge over the Isar River near the Feldherrenhalle his group of nearly 2000 followers including future Nazi Leaders Hermann Goering and Rudolf Hess were confronted by about 100 Bavarian police, and defeated. Hitler was arrested and tried, spent nine months in prison during which he wrote Mein Kampf. The Burgerbraukeller and the Feldherrenhalle became Nazi shrines which after Hitler’s takeover became places where Hitler would return yearly to mark his failed putsch.

All of these events took place in a small area of the Munich city center. Sadly most people who come to Munich are aware of the events that occurred here, and many fail to realize how easily a city know for so many cultural and scientific achievements can become the locus of evil for a man like Adolf Hitler.

While I love Munich my love is tempered by how many events which still affect us today occurred here just eight to ninety years ago. To use a German expression, that amount of in the sense of history is merely an “augenblick” or “blink of an eye”. It is hard to believe that so much has happen here, and just how few people understand just how easily such events can happen again.

When I look at my own country I see parallels between the more extreme elements of the Tea Party movement, White Supremacists and others with some of those that followed Hitler to the Burgerbraukeller. The hatred that they express towards liberals, racial minorities, immigrants and Moslems is so similar to the words of those precursors to the Nazi party rule in Germany that it is frightening. Comforting myths are substituted for history. Race, ideology and xenophobic nationalism, often clothed in the language of tradition “Christian” beliefs are used to demonize those who are different. Sadly too I see some of my fellow progressives inflamed with such a hatred of conservatives that they can not see the dangers inherent in such polarization. As a historian, I find the parallels disturbing.

But despite that we are here to have fun, and that I am. After all, I choose to believe in the power of acceptance, tolerance and inclusiveness. Those are found in the words that are imprinted on the modern German Army belt buckles and in the German National anthem “eingekeit, recut und freiheit” or “unity, Justice and freedom.” Those words are also implicit in our own Declaration of Independence which states that “all men are created equal. Thus for me, not believe that good can overcome evil is central to who I am.

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And from Munich, I am your friend,

Peace

Padre Steve

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Oktoberfest Pilgrimage: Live Blog

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Day two of my Religious Pilgrimage to the Oktoberfest in Munich. Fun using my German again on a daily basis, my German friends tell me I’m fluent in it but I know better. I do very well and speak with a mixed Hessian and Bavarian dialect without an American accent. I can carry on normal conversation as long as it doesn’t get too technical.

We arrived in Munich about 1230 on Saturday and our group left our hotel about 1630 to go to the Fest. It was a lot of fun being with friends. We tried to find a table at the Lowenbrau tent but ended up in the Biergarten at the Paulaner tent across the way. We had a blast, got back to the hotel about 2230, Judy crashed and I went down with some of our friends to the hotel bar for more beer. After a total consumption of somewhere between five and six liters of beer I went up and crashed for the night.

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Today after an amazing breakfast at the hotel we are out again this time at the Lowenbrau tent. Again a lot of fun. The music, the party atmosphere and the fun talking with people from Germany and other countries.

I think tonight we will go to the Hofbrauhaus for more bier and dinner. Judy made the comment this morning that it will be hard not seeing our friends everyday, kind of like leaving church camp. But then this is a religious pilgrimage.

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So anyway, until tomorrow…

Peace

Peace

Padre Steve+

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