Saturday, May 7, 2022
Tuesday, May 3, 2022
I don't want to live in a theocracy.
I don't want to live in some resurrected version of the old Confederacy.
I don't want to be ruled over by a racial and/or plutocratic oligarchy.
I don't want to live in "America™".
I want to live in the United States of America with Liberty and Justice for All.
Friday, April 8, 2022
The second Passion series that I began in the fall of 2016 is about to conclude. I am working on the last 2 panels of the series now.
Sunday, April 3, 2022
Bill Paulsen died March 15 after many years of ill health. His funeral took place March 23, the day before his 78th birthday. His passing affected scores -- maybe hundreds -- of people around the world, and it certainly affected me.
For much of his life, Bill served as a Lutheran pastor. Though his grandparents were Norwegian immigrants, he was not born into the Lutheran church. He began life as a Methodist and eventually converted to Lutheranism. He brought to his long years of service as a Lutheran pastor the zeal of a convert. He served a congregation in Berlin for a couple of years in the early 1970s, and then for many years until his retirement, he lead a Lutheran congregation in south Brooklyn.
"Zeal of a convert" are words that give us pause. They evoke the image of a hard dour determined Servant of the Lord. Bill Paulsen may have been determined in his service to the Lord, but he was hardly dour. Many of us who knew him remember his vast collection of jokes of varying quality and taste that nevertheless kept us all laughing. I remember riding with him on a train through Germany howling with laughter as we played one of his favorite games, taking the opening words of famous hymns and adding the phrase "...under the sheets." "Oh for a thousand tongues to sing under the sheets!" Bill could be what I would call "aggressively friendly." He made a point of going up to people no matter where or what and just talking to them. He had a talent for immediately disarming people and making them feel comfortable around him. I watched him use this talent memorably on many occasions. In particular, I remember seeing him disarm famously surly cab drivers in Paris and winning them over. One cab driver got himself lost taking us back to the hotel. The angry and frustrated driver ended up refunding our fare and thanking us profusely for being so understanding after Bill spoke to him. I note that his talent for fearless friendliness served him very well in those years when he was partially disabled and frequently dependent on the kindness of friends and strangers. However, I think that's a talent he had all his life. So many long and durable friendships that he enjoyed began with such active friendliness and lasted over decades and even generations. That active friendliness lead him to summon the courage and inner strength to rescue people in desperate situations on occasion (no, I'm not talking about myself, but about people who really were in seriously dire straits and owe their lives to him).
There was a serious spiritual purpose behind Bill's charm and bonhomie. He believed very strongly in the "freedom of the Gospel," that the Gospel was emphatically not another calamity piled onto the backs of sinful humanity by an implacably angry deity, but liberty from all that guilt and grief. The necessary work of salvation has already been accomplished for us by Christ, by God Himself. There was nothing we could do to add or subtract from that salvation because Christ is faithful even when we are faithless. Instead of self-indulgently counting our sins on a rosary of thorns, or beating other people over the heads with inventories of their sins, we should enjoy the freedom Christ gives us and share that joy with others. "We're full of glory and full of shit at the same time" Bill always said. The Gospel is the assurance that we will get through the Valley of the Shadow of Death and dwell reunited with all who we love and more in the Risen Christ. And we will get to that other side despite ourselves since God has already done the necessary work on our behalf.
Bill Paulsen preached this and he lived it.
As much joy as he found in the Gospel, Bill's life saw an abundance of suffering beginning with a lonely childhood and the death of his older brother in a car accident. He certainly shared in a lot of pain and grief his parishioners suffered over the years. He spent his last years in constant physical pain from deteriorating knee and hip joints and a growing list of ailments. I remember one African cab driver in Paris helping him get into the cab describe Bill as "the bravest of men" because of the constant pain he endured. Of course as would anyone living in such conditions, the pain caused him grief and despair, but the despair never ruled over him.
I traveled with Bill twice to Europe to help him with carrying luggage and other things he was too incapacitated to manage on his own. The worst was helping him up and down stairs, and getting him on and off trains. But I count those travels among the greatest and most fortunate blessings of my life. I met so many wonderful and remarkable people through him in Europe and at home, beginning some great friendships. I saw wonderful and sublime things with him on my travels. I would always remember him gratefully for that alone. I will remember him for that and for his great and very generous friendship, and hope to see him again some day among the saints in light.