On Dimbleby’s black tie, and other reflections on Margret Thatcher’s funeral

Those Brits just have a certain propriety that shatters our unfortunate American cultural disconnect from the past and good customs. David Dimbleby drew some media coverage in the UK over the past week because of his decision to don a black necktie for the television broadcast. Awesome. I endorse black tires for funereal attire and even own such an item. When the need ever arises, I expect it to be displayed around my lifeless neck at the wake.

In England, an undertaker is still called an “undertaker. According to Dimbleby, the company in charge of the corpse has been in the undertaking business since 1789. These are very nicely dressed undertakers, although I do not expect morning coats at my own final services. Hell, I will be lucky to have a funeral, so let’s not lose any sleep over the small stuff.

You learn all sorts of things at a funeral. For example, what kind of middle name is “Hilda?” I bet Thatcher’s haters would have had some fun with that if they only knew. The good bishop pointed out correctly the difference between a memorial service and a funeral. Thatcher clearly wanted the latter, which ceremonially demonstrates our common fate, our common destination in the grave, our sorry human condition, the shared need of a savior, and the holy Christian hope of resurrection and eternal life. It was a complete delight to learn that Thatcher seems to have had an excellent theological handle on the Doctrine of the Church, and our relationship with one another and Jesus in his own mystical body.

Here is an important liturgical addendum. Prime Minister David Cameron’s New Testament reading from John 14 continued all the way through the final verse. The phrase sometimes omitted in high-profile Episcopal services concludes, “no man cometh unto the Father but by me.” It is exclusivist language concerning the Lord Jesus Christ. High marks for the liturgical powers that be for doing what should be done at any Anglican funeral under all circumstances.

None of that memorial service nonsense for old Lyncho, and “celebration in remembrance” is even worse. Have you seen the dreadful ads from a very shrewd local business seeking to discourage people from decent traditional funerals? These rites can be expensive, and I am sorry to see the development. My advice is to pre-arrange. Undertakers, -errrr funeral directors, are professional people who can handle that kind of thing. Let me add that, if I should be found worthy of a funeral, and if any of you should be disposed to spend part of your day on me, please dress appropriately; muted colors, coats and ties, skirts (and perhaps even hats) for the ladies. (No kilts. I hang with some pretty weird types.) For the love of all that is good and right, it is a funeral. Also, let there be a big old Anglican thumbs-up for black liturgical vestments and a deep sigh for the namby-pamby, wishy-washy, gishy-goshy, weaklings who have substituted white for the more traditional color of death. This modern innovation tends to the error of universalism and a false belief that everybody is ultimately delivered to wherever neo-pagans think nice people end up. That is certainly a serious lie and needs correction.

The BBC coverage was way above average. Something rather odd was built into the process and it provided an interesting moment. The professional undertakers discretely delivered the remains to a chapel near the beginning of the procession. Cameras were allowed inside for a private moment when clergy prayed over the coffin before the military bearers arrived. In another circumstance, the high ambient noise would have prevented one from hearing the noise associated with the lifting of the coffin and resting it on the young men’s shoulders. It is rather noisy and one hears all of the orders. It is not “left, right,” but “inside, outside.” I wonder why we in the USA generally do not see a casket carried on the shoulders?

Finally, the protesters are a silly lot and completely out-of-line. For the love of might, the woman is dead. On this day or all days, leave her alone. At the grave, we stand united in grief and fallen humanity. Christians stand united in “the sure and certain hope of the resurrection.” So be it.

7th Annual Christmas Caravan for the Homeless Set for Clinton Library

Sandra Wilson sent this over and it is my pleasure to post it in full. Marie (who has a personal devotion to the homeless population) and I expect to take part.

Little Rock – The 7th Annual Christmas Caravan will take place on December 22nd with Santa and the Caravan of gifts arriving at 8:30 a.m. in the parking lot of the Clinton Presidential Library.

The Christmas Caravan is an annual outreach event that provides basic necessities to homeless adults, as well as gifts of toys and other items for homeless and near-homeless children. The mission of the Caravan is to provide an opportunity for those without homes or resources to participate in the true joy and sharing in this celebration of the Christmas season, and to provide an opportunity for a diverse mix of volunteers to come together in a festive holiday atmosphere to share with the less fortunate in our community.

The Caravan is made up of volunteers who will gather bringing automobiles loaded with coats, clothing, shoes, sleeping bags, blankets and other donations for area homeless, as well as gifts of toys for homeless and low income children who attend the event. Led by Santa Claus, the Caravan will travel parade-style from Heifer International to the Clinton Presidential Library parking lot. The participants are encouraged to decorate their vehicles and wear Christmas-themed clothing to create a festive atmosphere.   Churches and groups will provide breakfast food and drinks to our guests as they arrive.  The River Rail Trolley will provide Free Rides to and from the event from 8 a.m. until noon.  Participants can get on the trolley from any of the stops in the downtown Little Rock and North Little Rock area.

When the Caravan arrives at the Clinton site at 8:30 a.m., gifts will be distributed directly from the vehicles to those who have gathered to participate. Church youth groups will provide Christmas carolling during the event and Santa will have a special place to talk with the children and hand out gifts and goodies.

This will be the 7th year that the Christmas Caravan has taken the celebration of Christmas to the streets. The event has grown in participants, volunteers, and donations every year.  We are blessed with volunteers from youth groups, churches, schools, social organizations, and social services agencies, as well as individuals and multi-generation families. We are thankful for all of our volunteers and donors.

To learn more about supporting or participating in the Caravan, visit our website http://christmascaravan.org/ or contact event organizer Sandra R. Wilson at 501-580-6185 or sandra@christmascaravan.org This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Election 2012: has anything changed?

A good number of reasonable people (including thoughtful conservatives) have proposed that the Tuesday re-election of President Obama represents a watershed event. Many of those offering opinions, often referring to me and my kind as slime, takers, ignorant, non-contributors, and much worse, have announced that the sky is falling. In the words of Lee Corso, not so fast my friend.

Yes, the Affordable Care Act is the law of the land. It was passed by the Congress and, as one who has supported health care reform for 20 years, it has some weaknesses. Those who are giving up on America also give up on fixing our problems. If the cost of health insurance, drugs, and treatment were not the highest on earth and if health care were not rationed on the most irrational basis, the topic would have never taken hold. The first step in fixing a problem is admitting there is a problem. America is still a great and intelligent country and there are plenty of people with the brains and vision to work on this issue, if the blowhards would just let them. Since the parties have given up on policy  this is going to be difficult. When all you think about is the next election, and many GOP leaders openly set the top agenda as an electoral victory for themselves and their interests, what kind of outcome do you expect?

I do not think I am a feminist in any formal sense and my tendency is toward the “life” position, but I can tell my elephant friends that you will not get too far when you tell 51% of the population that their needs and opinions do not matter. Just sayin’.

It takes some brass cajones to suggest that your political opponents are “takers” when the prime motivation of your foremost billionaire financial backers is to protect the unconscionable tax breaks that put their rates below the people who do the real work.

Honest Abe had it figured out, “you can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time, but you can’t fool all the people all the time.” Regular folks know that the plans to keep the elderly, ethnic newcomers, blacks and the poor from voting are brazed attacks on the very values that many men and women came home in boxes trying to defend.

America is changing and it is not all good. As a practicing Christian I am especially concerned, but I have a lot of trouble trusting Roman Catholic bishops. There is a disconnect for people who say from one side of the mouth, “please protect my religious liberty,” while on the other taking away the ability of their non-Catholic employees to exercise the right to conscience and use contraceptives. Yes, it is more complicated than that, but we never get into the deep stuff during election season.

The moral condition of the country is distressing. For some, that amounts to a little dishonesty from the poor and sexual immorality among the lower classes and entertainment elites. Excluded entirely from moral criticism is the class of self-seeking financial executives who steal from the shareholders and ride off on a golden parachute. Truth be told, the poor are held accountable regularly.

Christians have failed miserably to bring the gospel to a nation that has heard of Jesus and rejected him. Evangelicals are in no better condition than the Roman Catholic bishops, although there are bright spots among the faithful in both institutions. Still, the infatuation with politics, nationalism, and materialism is more of a problem than the president that excites so much outrage.

America has been changing and not for the better. Some of this is becoming much more apparent. If the Christian religion is so darned good (and it is!) why not try doing it and turn the other cheek instead of knocking your neighbor on his behind. If Western civilization is so good, promote and reward classical curriculums over for-profit trade schools that happen to offer degrees.

Many people who should be retiring have just about worked themselves to death, kept kids at home past when most would have started their lives and brought their own parents into the household. My generation paid for the “greatest generation” to have the greatest retirement in world history. We paid into Social Security and it is not an “entitlement.” While it is also true that my peers have resisted discussion of things that would assure the solvency of our retirement program, including a more realistic immigration policy, we know when somebody is trying to steal our very lives away (and that means you too, Mr. Obama).

The special interests who are smothering us with their insistence on policy preferences and a free ride on taxes are totally out of control. Some of us have actually heard of the Citizens United decision that allows corporations unfettered “free speech” to pour endless piles of cash into the coffers of politicians who are too willing to take the bribe disguised as a contribution.

The somewhat surprising good news from Tuesday (and it is only a glimmer of a hopeful bright spot( is that many Americans are still willing to work on our problems and, perhaps, even engage with the maggots and slime who hold differing opinions (Hyperbole alert: reader beware).

If people who struggle for a paycheck, and raise kids, and worry about bills can still do a little bit of the hard work of citizenship, then the people in $1000 suits should put on their work gloves and do the same.