I had a remarkable experience one evening many years ago. While flying from New York to Washington by chance I sat next to former Governor of Minnesota and perennial (eight times!) presidential candidate Harold E. Stassen. It was late at night and he was in a talkative mood. He recounted his various experiences in international affairs including his service in Great Britain. He got to know Winston Churchill pretty well. Here are some of the comments he made about this remarkable man.

He noted for example that he often went to the House of Commons when he knew Churchill would speak. On one occasion just after World War II when Churchill was out of office and critical of the incumbent Labor Party he arose on the House of Commons and noted as follows: “Great Britain is an island of coal surrounded by fish. Under the Labor government the two items that are in short supply our coal and fish.”

The Governor noted that Churchill had a son-in-law that he disliked very much. The unfortunate fellow added to his difficult relationship by calling Churchill “daddy”. One evening at dinner the son-in-law asked Churchill who is the most impressive world leader he had ever met. Churchill responded “Benito Mussolini. He had the courage to execute his son-in-law Count Ciano”.

Stassen also told the story of Churchill receiving a surprise invitation to address the Women’s Christian Temperance League. With his well-known propensity for alcohol he was intrigued and accepted. At the opening of the conference the chairperson in her introduction noted that the League had carefully selected the place for the meeting. She said that, based upon the reports of his daily consumption of Alcohol that Churchill had already consumed enough wine and brandy to half fill this auditorium half way to the ceiling. Churchill arose slowly raised his eyes to the ceiling and in a soft voice said “I am very humbled when in my advanced age I face the challenge of reaching all the way up to the ceiling.”

Stassen also repeated the famous story about the first woman elected to the House of Commons who was American Nancy Astor or Lady Astor. One day in a furious debate with Churchill she turned to him and said angrily “If you were my husband I would give you poison.” To which Churchill responded “Madam if you were my wife I would take it”.

It was another story about the rivalry between Churchville and Anevrin Bevan the Welsh leader of the Labor Party. At a break in the proceedings Churchville went to the restroom and walked right past Bevan who was at the first urinal. Bevan was very annoyed at the slight and snarled” Winston why are you being so uncivilized?” Churchill responded “Anevrin when you laborites see an instrument of production in private hands you want it nationalized.”
Churchill was a famous napping during dull moment and the House of Commons. One afternoon as Churchill was fast asleep Anevrin Bevan pass by and jammed his finger in Churchill's rather large belly and said “Winston what are you going to call the baby?” Churchill in a split second opened his eyes and said, “Anevrin”.

Rev Bernard F. Hillenbrand

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Surveys confirm that 95% of Roman Catholic women have at sometime in their lives used contraceptives. This is in the face of the prohibition against artificial birth control mandated by the celibate Pope and celibate Church hierarchy. It is also in the face of a profound worldwide concern for overpopulation. Some 28 states have already mandated that birth control services be provided in healthcare policies. One of the provisions of the President Obama’s Health Care legislation is that in the interest of women’s health that ALL American women are entitled to birth control.

President Obama and his advisers continue to be very concerned about the precious constitutional right of religious freedom. For that reason the President’s Plan began with an absolute prohibition against applying these contraceptive rules on churches. The churches however with massive federal help do employ many non-Catholics in church related facilities like hospitals Universities and other facilities. The president in a reversal of policy has now directed that these employees will be covered by the insurance provider and that the cost not be charged against a church.

To the great credit of the Roman Catholic Church the church’s spokesman on this issue Cardinal-designate Timothy M. Dolan of New York President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has called the new approach by the President “a step in the right direction”.

Any movement in this highly volatile and emotional Church and State issue is always dangerous. This is particularly the case now. We are in the center of a most bitter and divisive political campaign in the Republican contest for the presidential nomination. There is a wide public perception that the principal aim of each of the candidates is to prove that he then can destroy President. Obama. The major weapons are wedge issues like stem cell research, abortion, same-sex marriage, and amnesty for illegal Mexicans, gays in the military and now religious oppression. These issues are raw meat for the far right republican base that is so critical in the primaries. These are the people who believe that President Obama is a non-American Muslim, who is at war with Israeli, the Christian religion, Private enterprise and the U.S. Constitution.

Candidate Mitt Romney added his thought on Contraception. When speaking to the Ultra conservative annual Conference Political Action Conference.(CPAC) he got wild applause when he ridiculed China’s “One Child Policy” . The facts are that in the face of that policy a little over 30 years of that policy china has grown from one billion by more than three hundred million. This is about the population of the U.S. Rev Bernard F .Hillenbrand

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The Rt. Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde is Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, which includes Montgomery, Prince George’s , Charles , and St. Mary’s Counties. She wrote this article for On Faith

“The Scriptural argument against same-sex marriage is based on seven references in the Old and New Testaments that condemn homosexual activity. Each one of those passages, however, condemns exploitative sexual activity that is the antithesis of loving, committed relationships. The Bible is silent on the subject of same-gender monogamous relationships.

In contrast, the Bible has strong teachings against divorce. Jesus himself is quite clear on the subject. Yet over the ages, most Christian churches have come to recognize that God forgives the human sin and frailty that precipitate divorce. We now take a more compassionate approach to this issue than our biblical forebears would have condoned. If the teaching on divorce can change in the light of further theological reflection, I believe that the teaching on same-sex relationships can change as well.

However you interpret the seven texts used to argue against marriage equality, they pale in comparison to the over-arching biblical imperatives to love one another, work for justice, and recognize that each of us is created in the image and likeness of God. Jesus, for Christians, is God incarnate. He not only shows us how to live, but reveals to us that God loves us unconditionally. Indeed, gay and lesbian Christians often speak of the overwhelming experience of being assured that they are loved by God as they are

No matter how devoted to the scriptures of our faith we may be, few of us shape our moral opinion based on holy texts alone. If God is at work in the world, then our experience is a kind of scripture, and we must pay careful attention to what it is teaching us.

Jesus said, “you will know people by their fruits.” St. Paul wrote: “The fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Many of us in the Episcopal Church, which I serve as a bishop, know same-sex couples whose relationships can only be described as holy, and thus we have come to support the blessing of such unions. They stand in stark contrast with many exploitative and casual patterns of sexuality that both heterosexual and homosexual Christians are right to reject.

The struggle to determine what sorts of people God approves of is an ancient one. Jewish Christians, the original followers of Jesus, struggled over whether to include non-Jews into their fellowship. Gentiles, according to Jewish law, were unclean. But in the Acts of the Apostles, Peter was led by a vision to the home of a Gentile family who were eager to learn of Jesus’s teaching. After sharing a meal with them, he makes one of the most memorable declarations in all of scripture: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality.”

Every generation, it seems, has struggled to include someone previously thought to be outside the realm of God’s grace and full humanity. In our time, we in the Episcopal Church have come to understand that God shows no partiality between straight and gay people. Not every same-sex couple is a paragon of holiness, but neither is every heterosexual couple. Life long relationships are hard, which is why the support of religious and societal institutions is so important.

From the convictions of my Christian faith, and in support of my gay and lesbian friends whose relationships inspire me in my marriage, I urge Marylanders to join me in supporting the marriage equality legislation currently under consideration in their state.”

Bishop Budde’s scriptural analysis is impressive and hopefullly frees many Christians to now support Same Sex Marriages as do most young people.
Rev Bernard F. Hillenbrand

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The following is from the Newsletter of Former Senator David Durenberger urging the two parties to come together to solve the huge problems facing our country and the world. The title is his.

“As president pointed out in his state of the union speech, he inherited two wars he didn’t support and an economic collapse that had already cost Americans 4 million jobs before he took office, and another 4 million before he and his congressional majority could staunch the flow. Without any support from congressional Republicans whose Senate leader famously swore that “our principal goal is to make Barack Obama a one-term president.”

“Everything the Republicans have done since seems dedicated to that cause. Even though you have overwhelmingly voiced your disapproval of the tone-deaf polarization in Washington, the Republican presidential primary debates are all the evidence you need that bi-partisanship works only on their terms. Congressman Brad Sherman (R-CA) says it well: “We’re within nine and a half months of the country telling us whether to honor the instructions they gave us in 2008 or the ones they gave us in 2010.”

”We Americans are all in this together. We deserve to share in the success of working together toward shared goals. But how do we set those goals in a political system divided by partisans and ideologues and wealthy Super PACs? Someone has to show the way. It’s called “leadership.” In America, that task is the president’s because he’s elected to represent the country, not the state or regional interests of a federal system of representation. To represent America as a united country in the world of nations.”

“The party leaders of the Senate and the House have the responsibility for showing us how best to achieve these national goals. That’s how we built the capacity during the Reagan and Bush 41 years for the economic recovery of the Clinton years. Newt Gingrich deserves no special credit for this achievement. Until his ascendancy to power in the House, it was bi-partisan congressional policy reform in health, energy, the environment, trade, tax and entitlement policy – many of the policies about which President Obama spoke this week – that did the nation-building the country”

We have come together before in the face of great crisis and we surely must again.

Rev Bernard F. Hillenbrand

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We chanced upon a radio remark from a Rabi who said,” The Bible is God’s first words not his last words!” Some of these first words have caused massive suffering. A prime example is in the third book of the Old Testament. In Leviticus 18 verse 22. It says, “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman: it is an abomination.” The punishment for an abomination was a death by torture. The victim was buried up to the neck in sand and the neighbors smashed the head with stones.

In Leviticus Moses reports his instructions from God in the form of rules and regulations to govern the tiny nation of Israel. Their understanding was that God demanded certain rituals such as splashing sacrificial goat’s blood on a rock. The followers responded in profound Good faith. However in this instance they were criminally wrong. This passage has for thousands of years caused undeserved suffering for our innocent fellow humans who have inherited homosexual orientations.

Also our faithful honest hard-working ancestors were sure that the earth was created in six days; that people are in the image of God; and they knew that the Earth was not round or people would fall off. They had no hint about DNA and that sexual preferences are inherited in our genes as is the color of our skin or the shape of our nose.

Their vision of God was as a Divine Person. They had no idea of the over whelming power and creativity of God. Black holes and dark energy still remains beyond human understanding. In the beginning they believed God was in a holy box moving from place to place under a tent. Since these first words, we now know that in the cosmos earth is a tiny speck like a grain of sand in the desert. Unlike Moses we moderns have seen Neil Armstrong standing on the Moon and looking back at our tiny round blue Earth.

Some of the worst of bad ideas seem to live the longest. This is a classic example. Humans have lived for many years with a clear understanding that their sexual preferences were not learned but inherited. In spite of this clear evidence to the contrary the instinct is to believe that only heterosexuals are normal and that homosexuals are an abomination.

For thousands of years there is no evidence whatsoever that people who were born with homosexual preferences misbehave more often or are in any way inferior to heterosexuals. Conduct wise the very basic teaching of the Bible is that we are all sinners and as St. Paul notes, “fall short of the mark”.

Here are some more of these other first words and ideas from the Bible that have caused immense suffering: slavery is approved; blacks are inferior to whites; females are inferior males; and Jews are evil and must be eradicated.

Winston Churchill said.” Americans always do the right thing but only after they have exhausted every other possibility”. Now is the time to do the right thing. .

Homophobia is a very bad idea. Stop it!

Rev Bernard F. Hillenbrand

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