From the Archives: A Barra Blessing

I have written exactly two bits of travel writing. One of my travel pieces was published on Beliefnet, and the other was rejected by Islands Magazine. Both pieces were written after I took a trip to Scotland’s Western Isles in the fall of 2000. In the heretofore unpublished piece below I make mention of a Glaswegian cover band called Manford Clan[sic–see comments below]. The band has long since broken up, but over thaka Laird and Lady Chafe years the drummer, Craig Smith, and I have kept up a correspondence (he even comments on this blog from time to time). On January 26 I had the great pleasure of officiating at his his wedding to the lovely Michelle Thompson[sic–see comment below] at Natural Bridges State Beach in Santa Cruz, Ca. It was a wedding like no other.

My fascination with the Island of Barra began with a story. “The king of Scotland,” or so my father told me, echoing the words of his uncle Neil, “declared that the Isle of Barra would go to the clan whose sailors won a boat race. The first clan to touch the island, could claim it as their own.” The Castlebay from KisimulMacNeils were winning the race, but began to fear they might loose to the Campbells” (or the Stewarts or the MacDonalds—the story changed a little each time it was told) “and so the head of the clan, our ancestor, laid his arm on the gunwale, took out his sword, chopped off his hand and threw it on to the island, making the MacNeils the first clan to touch the island. And that’s why we’re all a little bit crazy.”
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Gene Robinson’s Prayer

Apparently, HBO did not include the invocation offered by the Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson, Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire, in its coverage of the pre-inagural festivities. I don’t know why HBO did not include Bishop Robinson’s prayer, but he is the first openly Gay bishop in the Anglican communion, which makes me suspect that HBO–or perhaps the Obama camp–was feeling a little uncomfortable with his voice.

Regardless, this is a powerful prayer that is worthy of being heard. Thanks to Christianity Today via the Huffington Post for making this video available.

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In Praise of My Dashboard Jesus

This column is also published on UPI’s Religion and Spirituality Forum.  On January 27, 2009 this piece was broadcast on the Persepctives program on KQED FM in San Francisco, CA.  Give a listen!


I don\'t care if it rains for freezes...Something in our nature inspires humans to collect religious trinkets—talismans and relics that remind us of life’s transcendent mysteries, or icons through which we glimpse the divine. I’ve got dozens of such pious knickknacks—everything from a small collection of large Bibles to a cross necklace—but I suspect the most important of my faith-based souvenirs is a plastic dashboard Jesus figurine that sits up on the back of my stove between an empty bottle of Calvin beer from Geneva and my daughter’s Albert Einstein action figure.

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Jon Stewart Weighs In On Gaza

This pretty much speaks for itself. Comedy can speak with a powerful prophetic voice.

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But Who Started It?

After writing a column about Israel’s collective punishment in Gaza I got some feedback suggesting that Israel was merely responding to Hamas’ violation of a six-month-old ceasefire. That has been the dominant narrative in the US media. Now, I understand that when you start asking about who started what in the Mideast, you can go back thousands of years finding fault, but still, I think this video from CNN is worth a watch: