Saturday, November 10, 2012


My friend Brother Bob is depressed and despondent over Obama getting re-elected. We're having coffee near Santa Monica beach. Bob listens exclusively to FOX News, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Alex Jones. He once told me these sources are anointed by God to give the Christian worldview on things. He doesn't question what they say. He believes them wholeheartedly. As I watch him bite into his danish, I realize I've known Bob for a while. He's become increasingly involved in his church, a megachurch with a program for everyone and everything. The strange thing about Bob is it seems the longer he's been involved in his church the more self righteous he's become. I hate to say it, but Bob's beliefs have made him nastier than he used to be. Talking to Bob is like talking to a robot. He's close-minded and incapable of looking at another view-point. Here's an excerpt from our coffee time so you can eavesdrop on the conversation:

BOB: This country's going to hell in a handbasket. The God-haters voted against Christian values and put Satan's choice back into office. Now Obama's going to raise taxes to help the takers.

ME: The takers?

BOB: This country has the makers and the takers.

ME: And it's against Christian values to help the takers?

BOB: Yes. The church is supposed to help the takers, not the government.

ME: Didn't Jesus say to help the takers when he said "When I was hungry you fed me?"

BOB: He didn't say the government should do it.

ME: Because if the government did it, it's against Christian values?

BOB: That's right.

ME: So when someone needs help, the government shouldn't help?

BOB: Now you got it.

ME: So Obama and Governor Christie are wrong to try and help Hurricane Sandy victims with government money, they should just tell the churches to do it?

BOB: Yes.

ME: What do you think would happen if New York and New Jersey depended on the church alone to help them?

BOB: They would be doing it God's way.

ME: (pointing to an encampment of homeless people near the pier) There's a lot of homeless there. Are they takers?

BOB: Yes. They should get a job. Look at those losers.

ME: See the guy in the army jacket?

BOB: Yes. Needs a bath.

ME: His name is Michael Pearson.

BOB: You know him?

ME: Yes. He was in a mental hospital. He has severe mental illness. Some evangelical preachers I know influenced the government to cut funding for the facility he was in. They said it was the church's job to take care of those things. Michael was dumped on the street.

BOB: The church can help him.

ME: I know one church that had a big facility. I was a leader at the church and had keys to the building so I opened it up at night and let Michael sleep there.

BOB: That proves my point.

ME: The church board got upset and told me to never do that again. Or the church would get overrun with takers. They told me if you feed one stray cat like Michael you get too many stray cats.

BOB: Your friend Michael sounds like a taker.

ME: Maybe he is now. But when he served in Vietnam and saved the lives of some of his fellow soldiers he was a maker. When he ran his own business during the seventies that brought in $350,000 a year, he was a maker. Then he got sick. Sometimes the makers get sick or old and become takers, Bob. And if you ever get old or sick, I hope for your sake, you have people around you who have real Christian values, not what you call Christian values, Bob.

BOB: I still say it's the church's job, not the government's job.

ME: Because using tax dollars to help people would be against Christian values, right?

BOB: Amen, brother.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012


Now that the election is over, my prayer is we see more of the bipartisan cooperation in Washington like we saw displayed by Republican NJ Gov. Christie and President Obama in dealing with Hurrican Sandy. Wouldn't it be wild if Obama appointed Romney to a position in an area he would be skilled at? Stranger things have happened. President Clinton hired Ross Perot's economics whiz and adopted ideas from the Republican's Contract With America and Clinton and his former rival Bush Sr. have done great work together in dealing with disaster relief.

Monday, November 05, 2012


I know you my friends are all along the continuum from Democrat to Republican and everywhere in between. Some of my friends are on the lunatic fringe. Some of my friends are apathetic & not excited about either choice. I've lived long enough & even worked in politics professionally for both major parties & for independents. I know neither candidate delivers all they promise & no man is the magic elixir to fix everything. Republicans & Democrat leaders have disappointed me before and they probably will again. Ultimately only God can do the impossible. But all that being said, the right to vote is a pretty amazing thing & people have died over the right to vote. I know it may seem like it doesn't make much of a difference sometimes, especially if you're not in a swing state, but I would encourage all of you to exercise the right to vote if you can. I already voted early by mail. There's countries like China that don't have the freedom to pick leaders. We're lucky to have some choice. I'll be grateful and proud of you if you take time to vote.

Saturday, November 03, 2012


When I was seven, I watched The Wizard of Oz and heard a song that transported me to a transcendent place. Judy Garland sang the song in the film, and she took me to somewhere far from my hometown of Pittsburgh, to a feeling of connection to an eternal emerald city. Somewhere Over the Rainbow. My father, a jazz guitarist, wrote an arrangement of the song for me to play on guitar. I played the song in a talent show at Saint Athansius School in West View, PA., the first time I performed on stage. The song, to this day, is very moving for me. It makes me think of my late father, and invites me to envision a place of infinite magnificence where my faith tells me my father and those I've loved and lost are still living there now.

Now, over forty years later, I live in California, near the intersection that used to house the drugstore where the song was composed. And I've learned in my studies of film history that the song was nearly excised from the film. The producers worried it slowed down the pace of the movie. I can relate to their struggle now as I am in post-production on my movie about Roberto Clemente. We shot a lot more footage than we can use, unless we make it a Clemente mini-series. I was talking with Mary Chin, post production supervisor, about this issue of discerning the thematic core of the film and building from that.

The backers of The Wizard of Oz argued vehemently that the song took the narrative off course from the journey to Emerald City. But wiser heads prevailed because they sensed the rainbow song spoke to something enduring and ineffable. The longing in the human heart for an eternal city. A safe place after the storms and hurricanes of life.

My mother in Pennsylvania called after Hurricane Sandy hit and said it was raining hard back home. Thankfully, the worst of the storm is over. After the rain comes the sun, the cleanup of the mess, and the rainbow - the sign of a covenant of grace.

Sometimes in life the storms are emotional, financial, and relational. When I've been my most depressed, I have on these dark glasses (metaphorically speaking), and things look bleak. I can't seem to will the black clouds away and then I think of the rainbow. Rainbows remind me the sun will shine again. As Emerson says, wait for your returning strength.

In the story of Noah, after the Great Flood, God sent a rainbow as a symbol of eternal grace. "I set my bow in the clouds to serve as a sign of the covenant between Me and the earth..." (Genesis 9) We make it through the storms, the sun comes back out and the rain ends, and thankfully, the rainbow magically appears and troubles melt like lemon drops a way above the chimney tops.

To my friends on the East Coast, the sun will shine again. The rainbow is on the way soon.