Friday, April 30, 2021

Take a Bite from Apple Inc.

 Some of my favorite electronic gizmos are made by the Apple company, such as my iPhone, iPad, AirPods Pro, and Apple Watch. The official Apple logo is the image of an apple with a bite out of it. When the logo was introduced years ago, people at the company explained the image represents the forbidden fruit from the Garden of Eden, the “apple” eaten by Adam and Eve. 

It was further explained that the biblical forbidden fruit came from the Tree of Knowledge, and the overall goal of Apple Inc. always has been to provide people with knowledge, in the form of innovative products that help customers make the most of information. There’s no doubt our society has been inundated with information over the past few decades, with Apple being a major part of the so-called digital revolution.

I suppose you could make the case that too much information, especially easily spread false information, does more harm than good in our society. But in general terms, the more knowledge we have, the better off we are.

Therefore, some people might wonder why the Lord God told Adam and Eve they were not allowed to eat fruit from the Tree of Knowledge. Why would God want our original ancestors to be ignorant? Why did He want to prevent them from learning more?
Why did the world have to wait eons for the Apple company to come along and build on the immortal words of college founder Emil Faber, who brilliantly proclaimed, “Knowledge Is Good”? Is this another case of organized religion trying to keep the masses ignorant, until progressive visionaries could break the shackles of Church oppression and provide the tools for people to grow in knowledge?

Well, if that’s the narrative you’ve heard over the years, it’s not surprising. Religious traditions, especially Christianity, are often accused of opposing science, and the Genesis story, with its domineering God who wants to keep Adam and Eve ignorant, fits right in with that viewpoint.

However, the truth of the matter is quite different. First, if you read Genesis, the tree in question is not called the Tree of Knowledge. God did not order Adam and Eve to remain ignorant. The more knowledge and wisdom mankind accumulates, the better off we are and the closer we can draw to the all-knowing Creator of the Universe. Surely brilliant Christian minds like St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, and Sir Isaac Newton did not shy away from acquiring knowledge.
The tree in the Garden is actually called the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. OK, but if that’s the case, why would God forbid Adam and Eve from learning what is good and what is evil? It seems like those would be helpful things to know.

Yes, knowing good and evil is indeed very important information. How can we do the right things and avoid the wrong things if we don’t have the knowledge of good and evil?

The answer is simple: we can’t do the right things if we don’t have that knowledge, and we are commanded by God to have well-formed consciences so we can know the difference between good and evil.

In Adam and Eve’s case, they already had a basic education on good and evil: doing what God tells you to do is good, and doing what God forbids is bad. Many theologians explain that eating the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was not the moment Adam and Eve learned the definitions of right and wrong. Instead, it’s when they made the decision to ignore God’s definitions and instead decide for themselves what is right and what is wrong. They were the first to go down this self-centered, prideful path, which the Church calls “original sin.”
When human beings, collectively or individually, ignore God’s law and decide to define morality for themselves, the results inevitably are chaos and heartache. Thousands of years of recorded human history bear this out.
So, feel free to enjoy your Apple products. They are indeed amazing and useful high-tech devices. But when you look at the back of your iPhone and see that apple-with-the-bite logo, remember that the brilliant minds at Apple really don’t know much about the Bible.

Knowledge is and always will be good. Ignoring God’s law and deciding for yourself what’s right and what’s wrong is and always will be bad.

Some Introverts Are Not Looking Forward to ‘Normal’

 A few weeks ago there was a story in the Washington Post titled, “Meet the introverts who are dreading a return to normal.”

It seems a sizable portion of our population actually prefers social distancing and lockdowns. Now that the vaccine rollout is offering a light at the end of the tunnel, these folks are apprehensive that life will go back to the way it was before the Covid pandemic occurred. Most of the introverts quoted in the article explained that they feel uncomfortable in the typical work environment, specifically all the gossip and forced small talk, the large gatherings, and the noisy open office floor plans. Personally, my greatest fear at work is the ominous stuff growing inside the break room refrigerator.

When millions of employees were required to work from home when the pandemic struck, these introverts were delighted. Suddenly, they were free from all the invitations, the meetings, and the social outings that take up such a large portion of everyday life during normal times.
The article made the point that these people are not anti-social or emotionally impaired. They’re just the personality type that tends to be quiet and shy, and they struggle to feel comfortable in social settings, especially with a lot of strangers present. Just like most people, the introverts enjoy going to restaurants and being with their close friends. But they don’t like the relentless social events and the feeling that they always have to be “on,” which is typical in most modern work environments. Instead, they enjoy quiet time and being alone.

Introverts can be very engaging socially, the article explains. It’s just that those social occasions are very draining. Apparently, the main difference between extroverts and introverts is that extroverts enjoy social situations and draw energy from the experience. Introverts, on the other hand, usually function well socially, but the experience saps their energy.
I can relate to that. Even though I’ve been working in sales and marketing for the past 35+ years, I’m definitely more of an introvert than an extrovert. For example, when I’m at an industry event with a lot of unfamiliar people, and everybody is “talking shop,” I join in well enough, but after an hour or so, I’m beat. My mental energy level feels like an old cell phone with no charger cord available. The little battery symbol turns red and drops below 10% very quickly.
Although I land on the introvert side of the scale, I disagree with the people quoted in the Washington Post article. I most definitely want this pandemic to be over! I want to get back on the road and see my favorite clients in the flesh rather than on blurry Zoom meetings. I want to go to family picnics and ball games again. I want to get on an airplane without feeling like I’m taking a terrible risk. (I mean the risk of contracting Covid, not the risk of eating airline food.) I want to go to church and not wonder if the person right behind me is dangerous — other than having a dangerously awful singing voice. (Oh wait, that’s what the person in front of me is wondering.)

When things finally get back to normal, maybe we can slowly phase in the old face-to-face social interactions, rather than do everything all at once. This way, the introverts among us won’t be overwhelmed. After all, since so many people have been working from home during the past 14 months — most of that time wearing sweatpants and working a few steps from the fridge — before we jump into in-person social situations we first need to do a couple of things: lose 20 pounds and buy some new clothes.

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Why Do Our Bodies Break Down with Age?

 Do you ever wonder why our bodies fall apart as we get old? Personally, I wake up each morning nowadays wondering which body part has been placed on the injured reserve list during the night while I slept. Elbow? Hamstring? Ankle? Colon? Semi-colon?

In just the last year, I have thrown out my back while sneezing, pulled a muscle in my left shoulder while combing my hair, and sprained my right knee while, um, while doing nothing. One day it just swelled up for no reason and I limped for a week.
And that’s just the orthopedic, muscle and bone stuff. I’m not sure exactly what’s going on with all my internal organs as I get older, but I know it’s not good, especially since I now have more doctors than friends.

So, it’s just a fact of life that our bodies slowly but surely break down and wither away as we get old. The question is, why? Why do our bodies relentlessly deteriorate with age?

What if things were different? What if our bodies developed normally from birth to age 30, and then at that point just leveled off. From age 30 on, our bodies just stayed exactly the same: no receding hairlines, no baggy eyes, no shrinking muscle mass, no expanding bellies, no flab, no sag, no wrinkles. For the next 50 years we looked and felt exactly the same: a spry and healthy and energetic 30-year-old. And then sometime in our 80s or 90s, we suddenly would keel over and die. At least at the wake people wouldn’t be lying when they said, “He doesn’t look a day over 30!”

There would be some interesting ramifications if our bodies stayed age 30 for five or six straight decades before we passed away. The hair coloring industry would collapse, as would the companies that manufacture dentures, Velcro sneakers, walkers, and Bermuda shorts with the waistline just below the armpits. We would hear sports announcers say something like this: “Biff Walenski is entering his 52nd season as a Red Sox starting pitcher. He’s in the 33rd year of his record-breaking 45-year contract.”
I think I know why God created us with bodies that fall apart over time. He wanted to give us an opportunity to become humble. Basic Christian philosophy tells us the worst sin — the one thing most likely to keep us separated from God — is pride. And there’s nothing that encourages us to be prideful more than a young, healthy, vigorous body. When we are in the prime of life, we really feel like WE are something special, WE are in control, WE are the masters of our fate, and WE really have no need for God since WE can take care of ourselves. 

However, when our bodies deteriorate, we have to give up some or all control and depend on others to assist us. This is very humbling. When this happens, as it inevitably will (unless something else happens first: an unexpected sudden death at a young age), we can handle the situation in one of two ways. We either can get angry and bitter about our failing health, and in the process become just a delight to be around. (Did you notice my sarcastic eye-roll as I typed the word “delight”?) Or we can gracefully accept what’s happening to us, and smile as we tell God, “You’ve got a weird sense of humor, Lord.”

The opposite of pride is humility. Being humble is the exact state of mind God wants for us — or more accurately, the exact state of heart God wants for us.
Our steadily deteriorating bodies can be a source of extreme frustration. But we need to understand that it’s really a blessing from God. It’s God’s way of reminding us that we are dependent on Him. It’s His way of giving us a chance to stifle our pride and learn a little humility. 

Each day when we wake up and discover yet another body part has been placed on the injured reserve list, instead of getting angry, we need to laugh and look heavenward and exclaim, “Dear Lord, you are a funny guy! Now, since you got me into this mess, please give me the grace to deal with it!”
Getting physically old and frail is inevitable. But having a humble and childlike soul can be ours forever. We just need to remind ourselves Who is in charge, and Who promised that He would never leave us or forsake us.

(Oh, and once we get to Heaven, I’m pretty sure our bodies will be 30 years old forever, except this time around without all the pride and.)

The Amazing Smart Phone Weather App

 My smart phone has a weather app that comes in handy. It tells me the current conditions: temperature, humidity, wind speed, and cloud cover. It also shows the forecast, a colorful radar map, the sunrise & sunset times, and it does my laundry. (No, I’m kidding about the laundry thing. But if a software developer could make a phone app that does laundry, I definitely would be interested.)

Not only does this app provide weather information for my location, I can type in any city or country and it instantly displays the weather for that place. Back on chilly days in January and February, I would type in Moscow, Russia, just to put things in perspective. Suddenly, the 17-degree temperature here in Connecticut didn’t seem so bad.

The phone app, however, does one thing that makes me roll my eyes. It offers a 15-day long-range forecast. Now, don’t get me wrong. I am very impressed with the technology used by weather forecasters nowadays. After all, I remember as a kid watching Charlie Bagley on Channel 3, and he would say something like, “Well, I just got off the phone with my brother-in-law in Scranton. He said it’s starting to snow there, so my forecast is that it’s going to snow here in about three hours.” Then he would shrug his shoulders and mutter, “Or just keep looking out your window.”
So, the plethora of meteorological technology available nowadays is amazing. (I just tried to speak that sentence clearly three different times, and didn’t come close even once.) With all the data from around the world, the instantaneous updates, and the interactive colorful radar maps, I’ve never been more informed regarding the weather.

But a 15-day long-range forecast? Really? That can’t possibly be accurate. I decided to test it out back in mid-March. I picked a random date near the end of the month, and then each day wrote down what the weather app predicted would happen on that date. Two weeks out, the app said it would be 55-degrees and partly cloudy. The next day the app made a revision: 58 degrees and partly sunny. (I’ve never understood the difference between partly cloudy and partly sunny. Aren’t both parts present, partly?)

Anyway, the third day I checked and the new forecast was 54-degrees and cloudy. The next day it said 51-degrees and showers. Each day the forecast for the particular date changed slightly, and over the course of two weeks it pretty much ran the gamut from nice and sunny to cold and rainy, and everything in between.

When it got to be two days away from the date I picked, the forecast settled in on upper 50s and occasional sun. When the date finally arrived, the high temperature in the afternoon was 57-degrees, and it was mostly cloudy with the sun peeking through at times. So, the forecast that was most accurate, not surprisingly, was the one a couple days in advance.
Despite all the fancy technology, it seems meteorologists have a good idea what will happen within a few days, but anything longer than that — especially 15 days! — is no different than closing your eyes and putting some chips on a random number at the roulette table at Foxwoods.

My phone app should show the forecast for only the next three days, and then for any days farther into the future, there should be a simple message: “How do I know? Call Scranton and ask Charlie Bagley’s brother-in-law.” 

Instead of a ridiculous 15-day forecast, the weather app should work on developing a way to do my laundry. I’m not concerned what the weather will be in 15 days, but I am concerned that I have no clean socks today.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Grace Is Offered to U2

I enjoy the music of the rock group U2. The group’s flamboyant lead singer is a guy named Bono, who doesn’t hide the fact that he is a Christian. Some years ago, Bono was interviewed by a secular writer, Michka Assayas. When Mr. Assayas mocked religious faith, Bono didn’t get angry or defensive. Instead he began to explain the Good News: “It’s a mind-blowing concept that the God who created the Universe might be looking for company, a real relationship with people. But the thing that keeps me on my knees is the difference between Grace and Karma.”
When asked to explain that statement, Bono said, “At the center of all religions is the idea of Karma. You know, what you put out comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth…. And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that…. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I’ve done a lot of [sinful] stuff. 

“I’d be in big trouble if Karma was going to finally be my judge,” Bono continued. “It doesn’t excuse my mistakes, but I’m holding out for Grace. I’m holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the Cross, because I know who I am, and I hope I don’t have to depend on my own religiosity…. The point of the death of Christ is that Christ took on the sins of the world, so that what we put out did not come back to us, and that our sinful nature does not reap the obvious death. It’s not our own good works that get us through the gates of Heaven.” 

To his credit, Mr Assayas included Bono’s explanation of the basic Christian message in his publication. Even more interesting was his reaction to Bono’s words: “The Son of God who takes away the sins of the world. I wish I could believe in that…. That’s a great idea, no denying it. Such great hope is wonderful, even though it’s close to lunacy, in my view.” 

God’s grace is so wonderful that it is indeed close to lunacy. Except that it is true. 
The interviewer had never even heard of the concept of grace, or of the Gospel message about the forgiveness of sin through the death and Resurrection of Jesus. The idea that we can be freely forgiven, no matter how terrible our sins, seems to be lunacy when people first hear about it. It doesn’t fit in with our ingrained belief about karmic justice: if you do the crime you gotta do the time, or what goes around comes around.

For many people, like Mr. Assayas, who have never heard the Gospel message, the answer to the problem of karmic justice oftentimes simply is to deny that sin is real. Denying that sin exists may sidestep the problem of karmic justice, and it may give people some peace and comfort—at least until the swirl of societal chaos wreaks havoc on their lives. But the plain reality, for those willing to open their eyes and look around, is that sin is all too real.

Although the penalty for sin is death (Romans 6:23), the solution to the problem is not to pretend that sin doesn’t exist. The solution is found at the foot of the Cross. The solution, as Bono mentioned, is Grace. God’s love interrupts the consequences of our actions.

If more people who believe in Christ—not just famous rock stars, but also everyday goobers like us—spoke out about the wonderful Grace of God, then maybe those around us, our fellow unfamous goober friends and relatives, would hear for the first time how much God truly loves them. So much so, He does something that borders on lunacy: He forgives our sins even though we don’t deserve it. All we have to do is sincerely repent and ask for forgiveness. It is truly the “Good News.” 

There’s a Foggy Notion Under His Hat 

A local company recently sent out a mass emailing to all its customers, which said, “We rely on referrals for much of our business. If you enjoyed your experience with us, please tell your friends and post positive comments on social media.” 

They did not bother to say the obvious: “And if you did NOT enjoy your experience with us, please keep it under your hat.” This raises two important questions. First, who even says “Keep it under your hat” anymore? I mean, there are a lot of ways to request that someone not say anything, most commonly: “Hey, don’t say anything.” There also are these expressions: “Keep quiet,” “That’s a secret,” “Just between you and me,” and “Don’t tell a soul.” 
I don’t know if anyone under age 50 has ever heard the term, “Keep it under your hat.” It was pretty common a long time ago, but I doubt a young person today would have the foggiest notion what that expression means. (And I doubt a young person today would have the foggiest notion what the term “foggiest notion” means.) 

Anyway, the second important question raised by that company’s mass email is this: why are people so reluctant to say good things, but so quick to proclaim from the house tops negative comments? (And I doubt a young person today has ever heard the expression, “Proclaim from the house tops.”) 

If you spend a lot of time on social media, first I’d like to remind you that your eternal soul is in danger. Next, I’d like you to think back to the last time you saw something positive on Facebook or Twitter. To save you time, I looked it up. The last time someone said something nice on social media occurred on December 9th, 2015, when Mrs. Caroline Wasilewski of Dubuque, Iowa, sent out this tweet: “Maybe we need an outsider in the White House like that nice Trump fellow.” 
Moments later Mrs. Wasilewski was dragged from her home by an irate mob. Her remains were never found. Ever since that date, every single tweet ever posted throughout the world — now numbering well over 9 trillion — has been angry, insulting, negative, threatening, and for the most part, devoid of any factual information. (This includes the 2.5 trillion tweets sent by that nice Trump fellow, at least before his account was suspended. Twitter has a strict policy: if a user sends 2 trillion vitriolic tweets, he receives a stern warning. If he sends another half-billion, the account is shut down.) 

So, getting back to our original question, who even says “Keep it under your hat” anymore? Oh wait, that was the original question, but it was just rhetorical, meant to fill some space since I don’t really have a full column’s worth of ideas today. (And I doubt a young person today would have the foggiest notion what the word “rhetorical” means.) 

The important question is: why are people so quick to say negative things about others? Well, the answer is simple. People are jerks. I mean that in a nice way, of course, because I’m the only person I know who always says positive things about others — unless they’re jerks. 
I’m not sure the local company’s mass email campaign will be effective. The folks who did enjoy their experience won’t bother to tell anyone else. And the folks who did not enjoy their experience will be reminded by the email, and then post nasty comments on social media. 

Personally, I prefer to keep my negative thoughts under my hat. Either that, or publish them in a newspaper column. (And I doubt a young person today has the foggiest notion what a “newspaper” is.)

Friday, April 9, 2021

God Is Not an Impartial Judge

 Sometimes guilty people do not have to pay the penalty for their crimes. Even though they did it and they know they did it, often there is not enough clear evidence to obtain a conviction in a court of law. Other times the evidence is clear, but it was obtained improperly and thus not permitted during the trial. And once in a while the jury decides to make a political or social statement and declares the defendant not guilty despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. (O.J. Simpson comes to mind, along with the evil men who murdered Emmett Till. If you’re not familiar with either of these miscarriages of justice, look them up online.) 

In cases where a guilty person essentially “gets away with it,” his or her heart has nothing to do with the decision. This is because in a court of law, the goal is to make decisions impartially, based on the facts of the case rather than the emotions and feelings of the people involved. And in a secular court setting, this is a good thing. It’s not a perfect system, obviously, but it’s the best that mankind has developed. 
However, the situation is quite different in God’s courtroom. In His heavenly Halls of Justice, the evidence is overwhelming: we did it; we committed the crime; we are sinful. Romans 6:23 could not be any clearer: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” All the evidence against us cannot be thrown out of court since it was obtained properly. In fact, God was an eyewitness to every sinful thought, word, and deed. So, we deserve to be found guilty and sentenced to the harshest penalty. 

Imagine a man is charged with a crime and goes on trial in a secular court. But when he’s brought into the courtroom, it turns out the judge is his father, and the prosecuting attorney is his brother. Obviously this cannot be allowed to happen. The judge and prosecutor would have to recuse themselves from the case, and the trial would be handled by impartial people. 

But something like this does happen in God’s court. We’re charged with a crime, the crime of committing sins, and we must appear before the judge. When we get there, it turns out the judge is our Heavenly Father, who created us and loves us. And the prosecuting attorney is our brother, Jesus, who promptly ignores the role of prosecutor and spends all His time being our defense attorney. 
In God’s court, our hearts are more important than the cold hard facts of the case. If we are truly sorry for our sins and sincerely ask for forgiveness, all that damning evidence is set aside. God pounds the gavel and declares, “I find the defendant not guilty. Case dismissed.”

Secular law is kind of like a contract: we agree to obey the law, and in return society agrees not to throw us in jail. It is quite impersonal. God’s law is a covenant: He wants us to enter into a loving relationship with Him. It is VERY personal. This is why the heart is more important than legal evidence in God’s court.

Normally when we hear about an obviously guilty person being declared innocent in a courtroom, we become indignant. “That’s not fair!” we exclaim. “The fix is in!” 

God’s court doesn’t even pretend to be fair. It is blatantly unfair. People who are obviously guilty are routinely set free. The fix most definitely is in. That’s the way it is with love. Those bloody wounds on Jesus’ hands, feet, and side are the “fix.” 
Instead of becoming indignant, we should thank God that His court is not fair. Otherwise, we’d ALL be found guilty. We should repent and receive God’s forgiveness. We should enter into a relationship with Him and revel in His love.

Why Do They Call It ‘Dope’?

 It seems inevitable that recreational marijuana will be legalized in Connecticut soon. It’s already legal in Massachusetts and New Jersey, and recently Governor Coumo in New York signed a bill to start the legalization process. Nutmeg state officials are getting concerned that neighboring states have this new source of tax revenue (not to mention this new source of social dysfunction), and we don’t want to miss out. 

There are some strong arguments in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana. Oh, by the way, I’m not a big fan of the word “recreational” here. I know it’s used to differentiate between medical marijuana, but calling it recreational marijuana makes it seem like an organized sporting event, such as playing in a Park & Rec softball game at the community fields, when in reality it means getting stoned because you enjoy getting stoned.
The arguments in favor are this: first, people are going to find ways to smoke pot anyway, so it might as well be legalized and regulated. The state will reap tax dollars while the profits will go to business people and investors rather than violent drug cartels. Also, you can make a strong case that the so-called “War on Drugs” has failed miserably. Drinking alcohol is not prohibited, so why should a different intoxicant be outlawed?
I found some interesting information at the website of an organization called the Last Prisoner Project. For example: “There are currently over 40,000 nonviolent criminals sitting in prison for cannabis offenses. This costs taxpayers billions of dollars per year and has done immeasurable damage to the families of the incarcerated.”

I’m enough of a Libertarian to say, hey, it’s not the government’s job to tell people what they can and cannot do in the privacy of their own homes.
However, on the other hand, there are some good arguments against legalizing recreational marijuana. First, there’s no doubt that pot is a gateway drug that can lead to the use of harder and more deadly substances. The fact is, smoking pot greatly increases the chances that a person someday will try a much more dangerous drug.
Another thing about marijuana smoke is that it’s more harmful to lungs than cigarette smoke. Once it’s legalized, expect a spike in lung cancer and other serious health problems. Also, once pot is legalized, there surely will be an increase in DUI incidents, because another irrefutable fact is this: once legalized, many people who have never smoked pot — especially young people — will give it a try. After all, they’ll reason, the politicians have said it’s OK.

In my mind, the strongest argument against legalizing marijuana is simple: they don’t call it “dope” for nothing. Pot makes a person dopey. There’s a noticeable increase in foggy thinking, and a major decrease in ambition, initiative, and drive. The last I checked, it doesn’t seem our society currently has a shortage of people who are unmotivated and lazy. Do we really want a whole new flock of folks who enjoy frying their brain cells? Because that’s exactly what happens with regular pot usage.
And for that particular claim, I didn’t need to research medical studies. All I had to do was think back and remember (hazily) what my life was like during college. I was as dopey as they come. And even though I finally quit all intoxicants by age 28 (except for Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups), it took a long time to recover, both emotionally and financially, from those “lost years.”

So, legalization seems inevitable at this point. A lot of people are thrilled, while others are angry. Personally, I’m just sad. It’s too bad so many people don’t realize you can be high on life without being a dope.

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Jesus Has a Sense of Humor

A few weeks ago, one of my Merry Catholic essays discussed the time Jesus rebuked two of His disciples. James and John wanted to call down fire from Heaven on some Samaritans, and Jesus was not pleased. I suggested that Jesus may have been even more angry than Luke described in his gospel. When I posted that essay on my blog (, I included a meme I found online that showed an image of Jesus from an old movie. In the still shot, Jesus appears to be shouting at someone, and there’s a fairly intense expression on His face. The caption reads: “You just wait till I tell my Dad about this!”

Obviously, that meme was supposed to be humorous. As you may have detected, at least once or twice a year, I attempt a little humor. As you also may have detected, the operative word here is “attempt.”

When I saw that “Wait till I tell my Dad” meme, my first thought was, “Oh, that’s funny. It’s perfect for this essay.” My second thought was, “And I bet someone will be offended by it.”

Sometimes there is a fine line between innocent fun and sacrilege. For example, when you do a search on the Google Image site for “Jesus angry meme,” besides the “Wait till I tell my Dad” image, there are many others that are plainly gross and blasphemous.
The key, in my mind, is to ask a variation of a popular expression. When I’m trying to decide if something has crossed the line from playfully funny to sarcastically offensive, I ask, “What would Jesus say?”
With many of the nasty images online, I know Jesus would shake his head sadly and say, “Wow, some people are just consumed with hate.” With those images, it’s clear the person who created it either hates Jesus, hates Jesus’ followers, or simply gets a kick out of shocking people. There’s no real attempt at humor, no real desire to share a pleasant laugh with another person.

When Jesus saw the “Wait till I tell my Dad” image, I’m pretty sure He smiled, rolled His eyes a bit, and said, “Yeah, that’s kind of cute. I like the way it uses a comment a child might say and applies it to me and my Father in Heaven.” When I decided to post that meme on my blog, my only goal was to share a laugh with others, along with sharing my love and devotion for the Lord.
I think when the topic is Jesus, a lot of people are afraid to laugh. That’s understandable. All the popular movies about the life of Christ usually depict the Lord solemnly intoning “thee and thou” verses from the King James Bible. There might be a couple of brief smiles during the movie, but nothing resembling a laugh. And in parochial school decades ago, if you even suggested to the nuns that Jesus either cracked jokes or laughed at someone else’s jokes, you went home that day with throbbing knuckles.

But think about it: Jesus is fully God and fully man; that’s a core doctrine of our faith. When He walked the earth, He was like us in every way except sin. If He was a well-adjusted human being, then He certainly had a sense of humor. After all, God created us with a sense of humor for two important reasons, to help us joyfully bond with other people and as a mechanism to relieve stress.

Now, obviously, Jesus’ mission on earth was quite serious. I mean, paying the price for the sins of all mankind—and in a rather gruesome manner—is a pretty heavy task. However, there surely were plenty of joyful times during Jesus’ three years of ministry when He was relaxing with His disciples or greeting a bunch of boisterous children. I am convinced that plenty of laughter was present.
Whenever I attempt a little humor in these essays—with or without success—my goal is to share a joyful laugh with the readers. If it’s not very humorous, well, that’s no surprise. (If it is offensive, though, please let me know.) The thing to keep in mind is that Jesus has a sense of humor. And the more we laugh and enjoy the love and forgiveness of God, the more others will be attracted to the faith.
So, in conclusion, a priest, a rabbi, and a minister walk into a bar … and the bartender says, “What is this, a joke?”

Learning Lessons from the Ol’ Man

Recently I was explaining something to a co-worker, and when we were done, he said, “Thanks. You would’ve made a good teacher.”

It’s funny he said that, because when I was in high school, I wanted to become a teacher. The idea of going into education was partly because I liked explaining things to people, and partly because my dad was a teacher.
One day, when I was a junior in high school and starting to think about college, my dad pulled me aside and quietly said, “Son, you can be anything you want to be when you grow up, a doctor, a lawyer, an engineer. But keep this in mind: if you decide to become a teacher, I will wait until you’re sound asleep, tip-toe into your bedroom, and then hit you repeatedly in the head with a ball-peen hammer.” Then he gave me a Jack Nicholsonesque smile, which clearly said, “And I ain’t kidding.”

Well, I may be embellishing some of the details of that long ago conversation, but the general idea was clear. He was advising me in no uncertain terms to avoid the education profession.
Unfortunately, my dad experienced a perfect storm of bad luck in his teaching career. He began teaching in a city school in the late 1950s. But by the early ‘70s, the situation had changed drastically because most of the middle class families had moved to the suburbs. For the final decade of his career, my dad was never sure if his main job was to be a teacher, a social worker, a substance abuse counselor, a corrections officer, a professional wrestler, or a M*A*S*H unit medic. It all came to a head one day when one of his fellow teachers, who was also a good friend, was shot and killed by a student.

On top of all this, my dad taught during a time when seasoned school teachers got paid slightly less than the night shift manager at McDonald’s, which was better, I suppose, than new teachers, who made slightly less than the 17-year-old kid working the drive-thru window. For every hour he worked in the classroom, my dad worked two hours at various part-time jobs on nights and weekends, scrambling to support his wife and five kids.
I’ll never forget the day I got my first real job after graduating from college. I was a 22-year-old knucklehead who didn’t know his sphincter from a saxaphone, but I was being hired as a production supervisor in a local manufacturing facility. Everyone in my family congratulated me, but my dad walked away sadly when he realized my starting salary was more than what he was making after a quarter-century of teaching, plus earning a couple of advanced degrees.
Anyway, when I mentioned to my co-worker that I had thought about becoming a teacher many, many years ago, he said, “Oh, if you had done that, you could be retired now with a guaranteed lifetime pension.”

Yeah, maybe. But I suspect if I had gone into teaching, they would’ve asked me to leave long before I qualified for a pension, since administrators are not too fond of teachers who blurt out sarcastic comments at annoying students. And let’s face it, 90-percent of all school-age human beings are annoying. I know I certainly was.

When I began this essay, I didn’t intend it to be an homage to the ol’ man. But as I recall how much my dad busted his butt to provide for his family, my respect for him grows. I wish he were still alive so I could tell him. And by the way, I was just kidding earlier. My dad didn’t even own a ball-peen hammer.