Monthly Archives: August 2013

“Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth, and every other man has a right to knock him down for it. Martyrdom is the test.”–Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)

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Martyrdom is a concept with which I have been familiar since I was very young. From my Roman Catholic background growing up I remember reading accounts of the lives of saints, many of whom were martyred in the most grisly fashions imaginable. In the summer of 1969 my family, myself, my three siblings, our mother and father and my mother’s parents toured Europe, traveling in a Volkswagen van. Among the sights we saw were a number of art galleries where I viewed a great many works of art depicting the martyrdom of various saints. The martyrdom of Saint Sebastian is one of the more memorable depictions I recall, but it was the depiction of one event in particular from the Bible that really made an impression on me: that of the Massacre of the Innocents. From the first time I heard that story read to me I was troubled by it. I struggled to understand why God would allow such an atrocity. In one version of the story, written for children, I remember reading that we should find solace  in that the mothers of the slain baby boys would have found comfort had they known their murdered sons were the first Christian martyrs. This raised a question for me I have pondered over the years: can children be martyrs? Continue reading

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If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity. — C.S. Lewis (1898-1963)

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Christianity continues to appeal to me despite the fact I no longer practice the faith. My family was nominally Roman Catholic when I was growing up. I remember attending Sunday mass regularly as a small boy and being enrolled in classes to prepare me for my First Communion when I was in first grade. I never completed these classes as they were interrupted when my father was sent to work in England for two years and my mother, myself and my siblings went along also. I remember learning about Jesus in those early years of my life, that He is the Son of God, that as a child He never talked back to his parents or fought with other children, that He accepted crucifixion for our sins and our redemption. At the time I really had no reason not to believe. I trusted that what my parents and teachers were telling me was true. The two years we resided in England my siblings and I attended a private Christian school, Berkhampstead, in Cheltenham. On the whole I remember this as a positive experience. We had regular religious instruction given in a way that was pleasant and seemed quite reasonable. The best part of school for me at that age was when the teacher read to  us and Bible stories were as engaging as any other collection of tales. Continue reading

“After all, what’s a life, anyway? We’re born, we live a little while, we die.” ― E.B. White, Charlotte’s Web

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In memory of my beloved Juno (May 21, 2008 – August 15, 2012)

“Each of us owes God a death.” So I heard Gwynne Dyer proclaim in an episode of his television series War. Death is a reality; it comes for us all. When I was a small boy I did not understand the reality of death. I remember, I must have been three years old and seeing my grandmother with some old baby clothes and toys she said were my aunt Lonny’s. My impression in seeing this was to imagine that people must grow up, then grow back down to being babies again. I asked my mother if this was so and she corrected me, telling me no, people grow, then they grow old and die. She added that nobody wants to die, but everyone has to. I did not really understand what it meant to die and did not give it much thought until I was a little older, maybe five years old when I asked my mother and father “what happens when you die?” They told me “your spirit goes up,” presumably to heaven. I still did not understand and was a little frightened by the prospect, but decided that must be a long way off so I would not worry about it. Continue reading

I believe the fear of the rope, as it is generally called among certain classes, is a very great deterrent. — Rayner Goddard, Baron Goddard (10 April 1877 – 29 May 1971)

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Mika and I are celebrating our fifteenth year together this month, August 2013. In all these years as a couple we have never gone away together for a holiday. At long last we are taking a holiday next month, a trip to England for two weeks. This will be Mika’s first visit to England. I myself lived in England from 1968-1970. I remember upon learning I would be traveling to England with my family imagining England was a land with castles where kings and queens resided and frequently ordered that people’s heads be chopped off. While this was true in the past, it happily was no longer the case by the late 1960s. In fact, capital punishment was no longer in use when I arrived in England with my family. Still, this is one facet of English history and law I find fascinating: the application of capital punishment. Judicial hanging was by far the most common form of execution in English history, although the cruel punishments of hanging, drawing and quartering, burning at the stake and beheading were practiced for centuries also. By the 20th century judicial hanging was the only method of execution (outside of the military where one could be shot at dawn) employed and the English had perfected its practice applying it liberally in executing people convicted of murder and of high treason. Continue reading