Judy and I and our guest Elizabeth went to Izmailovsky Park today, specifically to the Vernissage craft market. It was interesting to see a matryoshka doll depicting presidents Obama and Medvedev side by side. (I didn't check to see who was portrayed on the inner dolls, and in what order.) Judy bought two dolls from one vendor, an elderly woman who wanted to know where we were from. Noticing my interest in her icons, she went on to ask, "Are you Catholic?"
"No, I'm Protestant," I replied, "but I respect icons."
"That's fine," she said, "but I have no interest in miracles."
Trying to keep the conversation going, I said, "Don't you think there might be a difference between actual miracles and superstition?"
"Who needs miracles when you have science?" she answered. "It was your American scientists who were studying Saturn and found out that there is a shower of tiny organic particles coming from Saturn and sprinkling the earth. It explains a lot of things, even where life came from. A similar stream of particles is coming from Mars. Your own scientists proved it."
Maybe I was just too tired, but at that moment, I couldn't think of a response.
I've continued to read Churchill's history of World War II; now I'm deeply into Their Finest Hour. The book is impossible to put down; I was even reading it on the longer escalators of the Moscow subway. I learned one startling thing that I either completely missed when I read the book in my teenage years, or somehow totally forgot: While trying to encourage France to hang on and continue the fight against the Germans, as partisans if necessary or from the African colonies, the British leadership seriously proposed--and sketched out in writing--that the two countries unite and become one single nation. The citizens of one country would equally become citizens of the other. At that desperate moment, there was no unity among French leaders over this fascinating proposal.
A question I always wanted to ask when I was a denominational bureaucrat: Isn't it nice when your principled refusal to pay a share in the support of the denomination results in financial savings at home? Alienation can be sad, but it can also be convenient.
I also had to bite my tongue when Friends meetings sent money to support mission bodies outside Friends. Some of those bodies were superb, and were places where I could wholeheartedly bless Friends' service. Others were simply a lot slicker at their marketing than we were (although I wanted so much for ours to get better!). I sometimes wanted to say, "Friends, you can come and get a guided tour through our file cabinets and financial records--can you get equal transparency from those other organizations?
Thanks to those of you who responded to last week's thoughts on evil. I'll do a follow-up soon.
Pinetop Perkins turned 97 years old yesterday, according to Dimo's Blues.
The "geopolitical" Rick Steves.
Dessert from Chuck Berry:
Chuck Berry - Mean Old World
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