David Bruce: 250 Anecdotes About Religion — Easter, Education

Easter

• On Easter, worshippers at McMasters United Methodist Church in Turtle Creek, Pennsylvania, saw two large red letters — M and T — behind the altar. Of course, the letters stood for the good news about Jesus’ tomb — that it was eMpTy. The pastor, Reverend Jeffrey D. Sterling, wanted to quiz the children about the meaning of the letters during the children’s lesson, so after all the children had gathered at the front of the church, he asked them, “What’s different about the church today, kids?” His own daughter answered the question. Ignoring the large red letters, she said, “It’s full, Dad!”

• Country comedian Jerry Clower is a devout Christian who attends Baptist church each Sunday, and sometimes he gets a little upset at Christians who attend church only on Easter. One year, while driving to Easter services, he told his wife, Homerline, “Darling, if there’s a lost man sitting in the pew where I usually sit this morning, on Easter Sunday, I’ll kneel by him and pray or stand outside in the rain. He can have my seat. But if a Baptist is in my seat that ain’t been there since last Easter, he’s getting up.”

Education

• When the scholar Rabbi Bun died at an early age, Rabbi Zera spoke highly of his scholarly labors, comparing him to a worker in a king’s vineyard who worked hard for two or three hours. The king called the worker to him, and they walked together. At the end of the day, the king paid all his laborers, including the man who had worked for only a few hours, the same wage. The other workers complained, saying that they had worked for the entire day, and they asked, “Is it right that he should receive the same wages we do?” The king responded, “Why are you angry? This man has done as much work in two or three hours as the rest of you have done in a whole day.” And so, Rabbi Zera said, “Thus, too, Rabbi Bun has accomplished more in the realm of the Torah during his 28 years than a diligent student could ordinarily accomplish in 100 years.”

• A university professor visited Japanese Zen master Nan-in. The professor was supposed to be there to learn about Zen from Nan-in, but it quickly became apparent from the professor’s comments that he believed that he was already an expert in Zen. Therefore, when Nan-in served the professor tea, he filled the professor’s teacup full and then continued pouring so that the tea ran to the ground. The professor cried out, “Stop! It is already full! No more will go in!” Nan-in replied, “Like this cup, you are full of your own opinions. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?”

• A Buddhist teacher from India visited the United States. When he was asked what he thought of Buddhist practices in America, he said that they reminded him of a person in a rowboat rowing and rowing, yet getting nowhere because the rowboat is tied to the dock. Many people in the United States devote much time and effort to meditation about lovingkindness, he said, but they forget to practice lovingkindness toward other people in the course of their daily activities.

• Peter Cartwright was a pioneer circuit-riding preacher who was suspicious of educated preachers. He met an educated preacher who addressed him in Greek in order to humiliate him. Not to be outdone, Mr. Cartwright spoke to him in German. The educated preacher, who did not know Hebrew, concluded that Mr. Cartwright had replied to him in that language, and he said that Mr. Cartwright was the first educated Methodist preacher that he had ever seen.

• Governor Wang questioned the teaching methods of Zen master Rinzai. Governor Wang asked if the monks read sutras. Rinzai said they did not. Governor Wang asked if the monks learned meditation. Rinzai said they did not. Governor Wang then asked, “If they don’t read sutras or learn meditation, what are on earth are they doing here?” Rinzai replied, “All I do is make them become Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.”

***

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David Bruce: 250 Anecdotes About Religion — Courage, Death

Courage

• In Poland, Irene Gut Opdyke witnessed Nazis shooting unarmed Jews, and she prayed to God to ask Him “to give me responsibility, to bring me the opportunity to help, even if my own life should be taken.” She helped many Jews, and she even hid several Jews at the villa of the elderly German major for whom she worked. (The architect of the villa had realized that war was coming, so he had built a hiding place under the gazebo. Much of the time the Jews were hidden there.) Unfortunately, the elderly German major discovered that she was hiding Jews. However, he said that he would protect her secret if she would become his mistress. She did. After the war, Ms. Opdyke said, “It was a small price to pay for the many lives.”

• At the trial by the Inquisition of Joan of Arc by biased judges who knew ahead of time that they would find her guilty no matter what defense she made, her judges asked her trick question after trick question. One example was this question: “Are you in God’s grace?” If she answered that she was, her answer would be evidence that she was guilty of the sin of pride. If she answered that she was not, her answer would be evidence that God had rejected her. However, she was very intelligent — as well as justifiably defiant — and she answered, “If I am not, may God bring me to it; if I am, may God keep me in it.”

• St. Athanasius tried to escape from some assassins by rowing a boat on a river. As he was rowing in one direction, the assassins approached him in a boat going in the other direction. When the assassins saw him, they cried out, “Where is the traitor Athanasius?” He avoided lying by answering, “Not far away,” continued to row, and escaped the assassins.

Death

• According to Deuteronomy 6:5, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” When Rabbi Akiba was about to be unjustly executed, it was the time of the Jewish prayer known as the Shema. (Shema is the first word of the Hebrew sentence which means “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is One.”) His disciples asked him why he was reciting the Shema at this time. He replied that he had interpreted the verse “with all thy soul” to mean “even if He takes away your life” and he had always worried about when he could obey that commandment. Now that he had the opportunity of obeying the commandment, he would do so.

• Entertainers were not always regarded with respect; long ago, they were regarded as wicked people who needed to repent. Jean-Baptiste Lully became very ill, and thinking he might die, he sent for a confessor. The priest told him, “In view of your stage-life, I want you to do penance by sacrificing something very dear to you.” The priest then suggested that Lully allow him to throw into the fire the manuscript of a new opera that Lully had composed. Lully agreed, and the manuscript was burned. Instead of dying, Lully recovered. A friend remarked to him that it was a pity that the opera had been burned, but Lully told him, “Oh, that’s all right. I have a copy of it.”

• A general swept through a region during wartime, creating havoc and terror wherever he went. He entered a temple and was surprised that the Zen master was not terrified of him. The general asked the Zen master, “Don’t you know that I can run this sword through your body without batting an eye?” The Zen master replied, “Don’t you know that I can have a sword run through my body without batting an eye?” The general bowed to the Zen master, and then left him in peace.

• Martin Luther King’s mother, like himself, died because of violence. On June 30, 1974, while playing the organ in church, she was shot and killed, as was a church deacon. The murderer was Marcus Wayne Chenault, a mentally disturbed African American who said that he had killed them because they were Christians. He was tried, found guilty, and sentenced to die. However, the King family opposed the death penalty, and the sentence was later reduced to life in prison.

***

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David Bruce: 250 Anecdotes About Religion — Children, Christmas, Church

Children

• A little boy had been naughty, so as punishment he was sent to bed after supper and was not allowed to watch his favorite TV program. His mother told him as he went to his room, “Pray to God so you can be a good boy tomorrow.” “Why?” asked the little boy. “What’s on TV tomorrow?”

Christmas

• In Philadelphia, the Old First Reformed Church, United Church of Christ, always has a Christmas program in which a newborn baby from the congregation portrays the baby Jesus in a scene set in the manger. If a woman in the congregation gives birth to a girl, then Jesus is portrayed by a girl. If an African-American woman in the congregation gives birth, then Jesus is portrayed by an African-American baby. If a Hispanic woman in the congregation gives birth, then Jesus is portrayed by a Hispanic baby. One year, a woman in the congregation gave birth to twins, so Jesus was portrayed by twins.

• Comedian Lou Costello enjoyed trimming the Christmas tree by himself late on Christmas Eve after his children had gone to bed. One year, he arrived home very late on Christmas Eve because he had been detained at the radio station where The Abbott and Costello Program was produced, and he saw that the butler had decorated the tree. Mr. Costello was so disappointed that he went to his bedroom and cried.

• A Sunday School class taught by Rolf E. Aaseng participated in a Christmas program that celebrated Jesus, the Light of the World. Four members of the class were supposed to carry large cardboard letters on stage to spell out the word STAR, but they got mixed up and displayed the letters in reverse order: RATS.

• Michael Moore, the director of Roger and Me, went Christmas caroling in 1998 at the homes of the CEOs of the top tobacco companies. He took along with him the Awful Truth Choir, whose members have lost their voice boxes (aka larynxes) because they smoked.

Church

• As a young pastor, William Woughter wanted to set new attendance records at his church. Therefore, he got hold of a number of old vinyl records and promised that whoever brought the most visitors to church on Sunday could publicly break a record over his head. Things went well for the first four Sundays — attendance was booming, and the records broke easily (pun definitely intended). On the fifth and final record-breaking Sunday, a young boy proudly led 27 visitors into the church. However, when the young boy took hold of the record and tried to break it over Pastor William’s head, the record refused to break — despite the boy’s several valiant attempts to break it. Later, a bruised Pastor William discovered that this particular record had been made with an unbreakable metal core.

• The Second Ponce de Leon Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, used to have a problem with parking. Nearby were two other places of worship: the Catholic Cathedral of Christ the King and the Episcopal Cathedral of St. Philip. Parking was hard to come by, and since these two churches met for worship earlier than the Second Ponce de Leon Baptist Church, the Catholics and Episcopalians used to park in the parking lot of the Baptist Church, resulting in a lack of parking spaces for the Baptists when they arrived for worship. Fortunately, the Second Ponce de Leon Baptist Church was able to solve the problem. Members of the Baptist Church simply put these bumper stickers on all the cars in its parking lot: “I’m Proud to Be a Southern Baptist.”

• Lots of people complain that churches don’t have the facilities to compete with worldly entertainments, but country comedian Jerry Clower remembers offering to let his 14-year-old daughter (Sue) and one of her friends go with him on a trip to Hollywood, where they could meet celebrities Lorne Greene, David Janssen, Dinah Shore, and Mel Tillis. She told him, “Daddy, I love you and I’m so glad that you would arrange it to where me and one of my friends could go on this trip, but daddy, there’s something going on at the church activities building I don’t want to miss. I won’t be able to go with you this time.” When Mr. Clower heard his daughter say this, tears came to his eyes and he said, “Praise God from Whom all blessings flow.”

***

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David Bruce: 250 Anecdotes About Religion — Charity, Children

Charity

• Entertainer Eddie Cantor put his knowledge of human nature to use while raising money for charity in what was reputed to be a tough town for fundraising. He did it by appearing to get sicker and sicker just before the fundraiser, even calling to see if someone could host the event for him at the last minute — which of course no one could. Because the people of the town thought Mr. Cantor was dying and was making his last request, he succeeded in raising $450,000 in a town where he normally would have been lucky to raise $150,000.

• Andrew Carnegie was a very wealthy man who had a reputation for donating money to charitable causes. Mark Twain wrote him to say that he wanted to buy a $2 hymnbook, pointing out that “I will bless you, God will bless you, and it will do a great deal of good.” Mr. Twain then added a postscript: “Don’t send the hymn-book — send me the two dollars.”

Children

• During a session of a junior church league, the preacher, Edwin Porter, was delayed, so he asked his oldest daughter, Janette, who was about 10 years old, to begin the session without him. The session started well, with 15 young children singing, “When the Roll is Called Up Yonder.” Next came individual prayers, spoken out loud, during which Reverend Porter arrived in time to hear one young girl pray about his daughter Janette, “Dear Jesus, make that preacher’s daughter quit stealing my sweetheart — and send him back to me.” Another little girl prayed about one of Reverend Porter’s young sons, “You know I need a husband — give me Edd Porter for my own.” Yet another little girl — the daughter of two prominent members of his church — prayed, “Dear God, do keep Mama and Papa from fussing so much of the time.”

• Abraham, the first Jew, was the son of Terach, a maker of clay idols. When Abraham was a boy, he sometimes watched the shop while Terach was away. One day, while Terach was away from the shop, Abram (who was later called Abraham) broke all the idols. When Terach returned, he asked Abram what had happened. Abram said, “It was terrible. The smaller idols got angry and began fighting, then the bigger idols got angry and began fighting, and finally all the idols broke each other into bits.” Terach said, “Idols don’t get angry, and idols don’t fight. They’re made of clay — they just sit there.” Abram replied, “So why do you worship them?”

• A woman used to say “God!” whenever she was annoyed, which was several times a day, so her son — a regular attendant at Sunday School — decided to teach her a lesson. He called out, “Mommy!” She responded, but then he did not say anything. He did this five times in one day, and finally his mother said, “You don’t have anything to say, so why do you call me all the time?” Her son replied, “Mom, I called you five times, and already you have lost your patience. Each day, you call ‘God!’ more than five times. I wonder whether God has lost His patience with you.”

• Mrs. Miriam Pincus was a Rabbi’s wife who used her histrionic ability to teach her young Hebrew School students Bible stories. While telling about David and Goliath, she used deep growls for the giant’s voice and the voice of a hero for David. She also sang comic songs to keep her young students entertained. One Monday, three tots rang the Rabbi’s doorbell. When the Rabbi came to the door, they asked, “Can Mrs. Pincus come out and play?”

• Quaker unprogrammed meetings frequently include long periods of silence. A small child who was attending his first meeting sat quietly for a while, then he asked his mother, “Why are they all sitting so silently?” The mother hushed the child, but a Quaker rose and said, “Our first speaker this morning has put before us a most important question.”

• Mary Farwell’s five-year-old son was playing with his Speak-and-Spell computer. He typed the word “G-O-D” into it, but he was surprised when the computer told him, “Word not found.” He tried it again, only to meet with the same unsatisfactory result. He then looked at his computer and said, “Jesus is not going to like this!”

***

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David Bruce: 250 Anecdotes About Religion — Anti-Semitism, Baseball, Censorship, Charity

Anti-Semitism

• Hadrian saw a Jew, who greeted him. Hadrian said, “Should a Jew see Hadrian and greet him? Cut off his head.” Hadrian’s soldiers carried off the Jew and beheaded him. Hadrian then saw a Jew, who did not greet him. Hadrian said, “Should a Jew see Hadrian and not greet him? Cut off his head.”

• In the former USSR, Jews suffered from anti-Semitism. In one underground joke, several Communists go to Heaven, form a party cell, and then discuss who should be the secretary. One of the Communists nominated God, but another Communist objected, “We can’t elect Him! He had a son in Israel!”

Baseball

• Sandy Koufax was a great Jewish major league pitcher. Umpire Tom Gorman was shocked to learn that Gene Oliver had hit .330 against Mr. Koufax, since Mr. Oliver was a left-handed hitter with a .220 batting average. He asked Mr. Oliver how he had managed to get so many hits against Mr. Koufax, and Mr. Oliver answered, “I’ll tell you, but it’s a secret. Don’t tell anybody. He thinks I’m Jewish.”

• Tim Burke was both a New York Mets pitcher and a Born-Again Christian. In 1991, he was asked about Jesus and his career. He replied, “If Jesus were on the field, he’d be pitching inside and breaking up double plays.”

Censorship

• While Maury Maverick, Jr. was a member of the Texas House of Representatives in the 1950s, a bill came up advocating censorship in the Texas schools. Remarkably, an organization of Texas schoolteachers came out in support of the bill — after having been bought off with a pay raise. This scared Mr. Maverick, who was knowledgeable about bookburning by the Nazis and who wrote, “When that starts happening, that’s the beginning of the end. That’s when someone is going to start killing Jews, or Presbyterians, or Methodists, or conservatives, or liberals, or whatever. Somebody’s going to get killed if that doesn’t stop.”

• Nancy Garden is the lesbian author of Annie on My Mind, a young people’s novel portraying lesbian characters in a positive manner. Religious groups in Kansas attacked the book, which was in school libraries, and a fundamentalist preacher even burned a copy of the book in public. However, students, parents, and librarians protested when Annie on My Mind was removed from school libraries. One boy and his friends even checked approximately 3,000 books out of school district libraries to show how empty the shelves would be if controversial books were removed.

• In the former USSR, members of the secret police attended church services to check the content of the sermons. Cardinal Wyszynski used to start his sermons by saying, “Brothers in Christ and delegates of the government….”

Charity

• Rabbi Meir Shapiro of Lublin often said that he had learned from a beggar how to collect money for charity. A beggar had appeared at his door, and the good Rabbi had given him a generous handout, but the beggar asked for more. Someone present said that he was surprised that the beggar had asked for more money because the beggar had often accepted much smaller sums of money without arguing. The beggar replied that when he was given a small amount of money, it wasn’t worth arguing about because what he would get if he won the argument? Another small amount of money. But a sizable amount of money was worth arguing about because if he won that argument he would get another sizable amount of money. Rabbi Meir Shapiro said, “Whenever I ask a donation from a wealthy man and he gives me a sizable sum, I tell that story.”

• Hei-zayemon was a wealthy philanthropist who tried to live his life in accordance with the insights gained by ancient sages. By using his money wisely, he relieved much of the hunger and misery of the poor people in his part of the world. One day, a monk showed up at his doorstep. Having heard of Hei-zayemon’s philanthropy, the monk requested money to build a gate for his temple. Hearing this, Hei-zayemon laughed, and then said, “I help people because I cannot bear to see them suffer. What’s so bad about a temple without a gate?”

***

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David Bruce: 250 Anecdotes About Religion —Animals, Anti-Semitism

Animals

• Lawyers aren’t always necessary to resolve disputes between neighbors. When country comedian Jerry Clower was growing up, some cows broke out of a neighbor’s field one night, got into his stepfather’s cornfield, and caused considerable damage. The next morning, Mr. Clower’s stepfather went to the neighbor and said, “Your cows stayed in my field all night.” The neighbor apologized: “I’m sorry. My cows broke through the fence. I didn’t know they were in your field.” The neighbor then said, “I tell you what let’s do. Let’s go get an impartial person living in the community, a member of our church, and ask him to walk over the field to determine the damage. Then he can tell me how much corn he believes those cows ate and I will put that much corn in your corncrib.” That’s exactly what they did. They agreed on a fair and honest man to serve as judge of the damage. He walked through the cornfield, then said, “Twenty bushels is what’s due.” Later that afternoon, the neighbor drove up and unloaded 20 bushels of corn into Mr. Clower’s stepfather’s corncrib.

• In the summer of 1984, a small black dog began to come to the Catholic Church in Uvalde, Texas, where Msgr. Vincent Fecher serves. The dog arrived with its master, then stretched out on the lawn of the church. When the master left after Mass and went home, the dog stayed on the lawn, buried in the tall, cool grass, and it moved only to stay in the shade of a tree. At the end of the day, it went home until the following Sunday. Father Vincent says about the dog, “I always thought that its presence there, facing towards the sanctuary, was a silent sermon to everybody that even a dog had sense enough to come to church on Sundays.”

• Rabbi Stephen Wise met a man who boasted about a horse he had recently purchased. The horse could go as fast or as slow as you wanted. It could do any work to which it was put. It was gentle, but it had spirit. It went when you wanted it to go, and it stopped when you wanted it to stop. It had no bad habits, plus it came immediately when called, and it didn’t run off when confronted with something strange. Dr. Wise admired the horse, saying, “I wish that horse were a member of my congregation.”

• Buddhist texts say that animals should not be slaughtered for food, and Buddhist monks in Tibet make a vow not to kill any conscious being. While in his palace above the Tibetan capital city, Lhasa, the 14th Dalai Lama noticed people bringing in yaks for slaughter. By buying as many as he could, he saved 10,000 yaks from being slaughtered.

Anti-Semitism

• During the Middle Ages, an anti-Semite falsely accused a Jew of killing a Christian, who had accidentally drowned in a well. However, the anti-Semite said that he would let God decide whether the Jew was guilty. He would write “guilty” on one slip of paper and “innocent” on a second slip and let the Jew choose one. Whichever slip of paper the Jew chose would determine whether he would go free. However, the Jew knew that the anti-Semite would write the word “guilty” on both slips of paper. Therefore, he chose a slip of paper, but he quickly put it in his mouth and swallowed it. “Look at the other slip of paper,” he said. “That will tell you what the slip of paper I swallowed said.”

• Sherry Britton was a Jewish stripteaser. During World War II, an American soldier sent her a photograph of herself that he had taken from a dead Nazi soldier. Ms. Britton says, “If the German had known he was carrying around a picture of a Jewish girl, he wouldn’t have had to be killed. He would have committed suicide.”

• Oscar Strauss was Jewish and rich — and happy to be both. Long ago, while vacationing in Lakewood, New Jersey, he saw a house that rented rooms. In front of the house was this sign: “No dogs or Jews allowed.” A few minutes after he saw the sign, he bought the house and ordered the sign torn down.

***

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David Bruce: Religion Anecdotes

• Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, aka the Singing Rabbi, once gave a concert at a Buddhist convention, where he taught Torah, sang songs, and told Hasidic stories. Afterward, the good Rabbi spoke with the Buddhists, who told him, “We didn’t know Judaism was so beautiful,” and he asked them their names. At first, the Buddhists gave him their Sanskrit names, but Rabbi Shlomo asked for the names they had at birth. The names came — Schwartz, Katz, Rosenbaum. The good Rabbi asked them to visit him if they ever were in New York. One Jewish Buddhist told him, “The Jews are a very spiritual people. If there were more Rabbis like you around, the Swamis, Yogis, and Gurus would all be out of business.”

• According to Leviticus RabbahXXXIV, 3, after Hillel the Elder had finished a session with his students, he left the House of Study. His students asked where he was going, and Hillel replied, “To fulfill a religious obligation.” The religious obligation was to have a bath in the bathhouse. The students asked if having a bath really was a religious obligation, and Hillel replied, “Yes! If the statues of the kings that are placed in theatres and circuses are daily cleaned and washed, … how much more does this apply to me, seeing that I have been made in the image and likeness of God! For it is written in Genesis 9:6, ‘In the image of God did He make man.’”

• When the monarchy fell during the French Revolution, religion was banished; instead, Reason was worshipped. Chaumette brought a veiled woman before the people and said, “Mortals, cease to tremble before the powerless thunders of a God whom your fears have created. Henceforth, acknowledge no divinity but Reason. I offer you its noblest and purest image; if you must have idols, sacrifice only to idols such as this.” He then removed the woman’s veil, revealing her to be Madame Maillard of the opera. She was then taken to Notre Dame and placed on the altar, and people adored her.

• Some Christians believe that dancing is a sin. American dance pioneer Ted Shawn once preached a guest sermon on a text from Psalms: “Praise ye the Lord in the dance.” Mr. Shawn told the congregation, “You believe in the Bible. It is not to be interpreted allegorically. It is explicit and you must believe in it as it is worded. Now here is a clear, curt, concise command, ‘Praise ye the Lord in the dance.’ Have you done so today? Then if not you have committed a sin of omission.” A member of the congregation shouted, “Amen, brother!”

• Muhammad Ali is a Muslim. Christian televangelist Jimmy Swaggart once tried to convert him, but Mr. Ali declined to be converted, saying, “Think about it. If Jimmy Swaggart can convert the best-known Muslim on earth back to Christianity, what would that do for Jimmy Swaggart?” Soon afterward, Swaggart was involved in a sex scandal. One of Mr. Ali’s friends suggested, “You really ought to write Jimmy Swaggart a letter, saying that God still loves him and Jimmy Swaggart should accept Allah as his only lord and savior.”

• “The Ten Buddhist precepts, which are not killing, not stealing, not misusing sex, not lying, not giving or taking drugs, not discussing faults of others, not praising yourself while abusing others, not sparing the Dharma assets, not indulging in anger, and not defaming the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, are guidelines rather than commandments etched in stone.” — Quoted from the book Crazy Clouds, by Perle Besserman and Manfred Steger.

• Sometimes Catholics and Protestants can work together, despite past differences. For example, Rev. Vincent Heier, a Catholic in the Archdiocese of St. Louis, once invited some Missouri-Kansas Lutherans to meet in St. Louis Cathedral. He welcomed the Lutherans by saying, “We are pleased to provide the cathedral. Please don’t nail anything to the doors.” 

• Sometimes, students told meditation teacher Munindra that they wished to leave him in order to study other religious traditions or that they wished to leave him in order to study under another teacher. Munindra always let them go without argument. When asked why he did so, he replied, “The Dharma doesn’t suffer from comparison.”

• “If I am broad-minded in any way, I do know that I am broad-minded in a religious way. Which way you serve your God will never get one argument, or condemnation, out of me. There has been times when I wished there had been as much religion among some of our creeds as there has been vanity.” — Will Rogers.

• Mark Twain, during his travels as a young man, went to Virginia City, Nevada, where a mining boom had brought in saloons, gambling places, and brightly painted women. Mr. Twain said, “It was no place for a Presbyterian, and I did not long remain one.”

• A Hindu watched Mother Teresa caring for an ill person. He told her, “Since it gives you the strength to do what you do, I have no doubt that your religion has to be true.”

• “Currently there are about 87,000 nuns in America; in 1960, there were more than 168,000. Just 3 percent of today’s nuns are under the age of forty.” — Jeanne Marie Laskas, We Remember, 1999.

• “The earth is a gigantic flywheel making 10,000 revolutions a minute. Man is a sick fly taking a dizzy ride on it. Religion is the theory that the wheel was designed and set spinning to give him a ride.” — H.L. Mencken.

• “Judaism begins not with an idea but with a community … We believe God cares more about how we treat each other than he does about our theology.” — Rabbi Harold Kushner.

• Buddhist monks all over the world get up before dawn each morning and renounce all the bad karma that they have ever committed.

• In 1942, on Bataan, an Army chaplain named William T. Cummings (1903-1944) said these famous words: “There are no atheists in foxholes.”

• “My religion is kindness.” — the Dalai Lama.

***

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David Bruce: Religion Anecdotes

• Early in his career—in fact, during his first-ever job as a writer—Tucson Weeklycolumnist Tom Danehy wrote this sentence: “I’d like to see a high school football season go by without a cheerleader getting pregnant.” Of course, this is a sentiment that all can agree with, although some people do not care to see it in print. One of those people was the publisher, and Tom’s career at a writer—at least in that town—seemed likely to end soon, as in immediately. However, the father of a cheerleader, who also happened to be the bishop of the local ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a big shot in that town, and a close friend of the publisher, saved Tom’s job by coming to his defense, even though he and Tom had had some major disagreements. Tom ended up leaving the job, and the town, soon anyway, but he always made a point of talking to the bishop each time he returned to the town. Tom says, “We still disagreed about everything (foremost being that his church, at the time, didn’t allow blacks to enjoy full membership), but we were cordial, and it [their relationship] was cool.” Tom, of course, still continues to have and express opinions, sometimes controversial, including this one: “I’d like to have a member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses come to my door, find out that I’m Catholic and say, ‘OK, we won’t knock on your door any more. See you in heaven some day.’”

• After five years as a Redemptorist, Father John Neumann was appointed vicegerent of the order’s American branch. As such, he did much traveling, and one day he visited the Redemptorist house in New York. Met by the porter, he asked to see the pastor of the house. The porter started off to get the pastor, and Father Neumann began to follow him, but the porter told him, “Stay here, if you please. Take a seat on that bench, while I call the superior.” Then the porter muttered his thoughts loud enough for Father Neumann to hear him, “This man thinks he can enter the cloister.” Quickly, the porter reappeared and asked Father Neumann for his name. Hearing the answer, the porter told him, “Oh, if you are one of the priests, do come in.” The porter was then astonished to see the superior of the house kneel and ask Father Neumann for his blessing, and the porter left quickly. Later, Father Neumann had a meeting with the porter and told him that yes, he had fulfilled faithfully his duty as a porter. However, Father Neumann added gently, “I think it might be wise not to think out loud.”

• Authors and illustrators often acquire special knowledge. For example, Paul Goble, who retells Native American folk tales in his books for children, has learned, “I cannot be creative when using a machine.” Therefore, he writes his stories in longhand, then uses an old typewriter to type what he has just created. (Of course, other people are able to be creative when using machines such as personal computers.) He does like old things, such as the recorders that his father, a maker of harpsichords, made in the 1930s and 1940s. Paul and Robert, his son, played duets on these recorders. Another thing that Paul has learned is that it is sometimes better to draw something rather than to take a photograph of it because drawing requires the artist to look closely. Yet another thing that he has learned is that the spirits will help you if you are persistent. A Native American woman once wrote him, “I’ve always thought the wanga (spirits) are close to you. Some of your illustrations reveal that the ancestors come to visit you in your dreams.”

• It is important to show respect for other cultures. When Val Halamandaris compiled his book titled Faces of Caring, he wrote about 100 caring people who lived throughout history (and some legendary figures). Along with the text, he included a drawing or a photograph of the person he was writing about. However, for Muhammad, the prophet of Allah and the founder of Islam, he did not include a portrait. Why not? According to Islam, images of Muhammad are forbidden. Therefore, instead of a portrait of Muhammad, Mr. Halamandaris used a verse from the Qu’ran. Translated, the verse says, “I seek refuge with the Lord of the Dawn.” One of Muhammad’s sayings is this: “Every good act is charity. A man’s true wealth hereafter is the good that he does in this world for his fellow man.”

• Bahlool the wise fool once announced that he was a prophet. Of course, his countrymen were skeptical, so Bahlool told them that a fair test that he really was a prophet would be if he could read their minds. His countrymen agreed that if he could read their minds that this would prove that Bahlool was in fact a prophet. Bahlool then said, “You are thinking that I am a fake and not a prophet at all, aren’t you?”

• A man questioned the Buddha, asking, “Are you God?” The Buddha replied, “No.” The man then asked the Buddha if he was the son of God. Again, the Buddha answered, “No.” Next the man asked the Buddha if he was a saint or a holy man. Again, the Buddha answered, “No.” Finally, the man asked, “What are you, then?” The Buddha answered, “I’m awake.”

• As a very young girl, modern dance pioneer May O’Donnell found confessing her sins a “trial.” The problem was not that she had horrible sins to confess. Instead, the problem was that she couldn’t think of any sins she needed to confess—so she used to make up sins to confess to the priest.

• Tenor Richard Tucker was Jewish, and he stayed Jewish, declining to wear a cross for any of his roles. For example, in Boris Godunov, instead of wearing a cross, he wore a brass medallion with no religious significance at all. When his character was blessed, the character was not blessed with the sign of the cross but with two hands.

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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Free davidbrucehaiku #11 eBook (pdf)

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Free eBook: YOU’VE GOT TO BE KINDDavid Bruce’s Smashwords Bookstore: Retellings of Classic Literature, Anecdote Collections, Discussion Guides for Teachers of Literature, Collections of Good Deed Accounts, etc. Some eBooks are free.

David Bruce: Religion Anecdotes

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https://pixabay.com/en/person-homeless-bullied-hiding-1821412/

In 2007, a homeless person named Earl Nagle, who was then 66 years old and had been homeless for at least 25 years, lived in Lehigh Parkway, a park in Allentown, PA. For many of the years he has lived there, many people have helped look after him and make sure he has enough to eat and can survive during the cold winters. People give him new cigars, new boots, and free meals. Earl can behave oddly, but his odd behavior stems from a history of neglect, abuse, and mental illness. In 1998, while jogging, the Rev. Jim Brashear, pastor of Bethany United Methodist Church in Wescosville, saw police at an abandoned stone limekiln, taking away the belongings of a homeless man—Earl—who sometimes slept there. Rev. Brashear assumed that the homeless person had died, but then he saw him, obviously angry, watching the police take away his belongings. The Rev. Jim Brashear said, “There he is, watching from a distance and they are taking his stuff. Lots of women jog, too, and maybe they are afraid, but police took everything he owned. I thought if that were me, I’d be upset, too.” The Rev. Jim Brashear went home, got an old comforter and some food, and then returned to the park and gave the items to Earl. He asked Earl if he wanted to go to a homeless shelter, but Earl declined the offer—emphatically. Like many homeless people, Earl prefers being on his own to living in a shelter. The Rev. Jim Brashear asked Earl if members of the Bethany United Methodist Church could help him, and Earl had no objections. Earl did ask that when members of the church dropped off meals for him, they leave them in a garbage can. The Rev. Jim Brashear said, “He asked me to put his food in the garbage can, I think because he knew nobody would take it.” (Members of the church double-bag the food before leaving it in a garbage can.) The church ended up creating the “Ministry of Earl,” which makes sure that Earl receives meals. The church spends $1,000 annually on this ministry. The Rev. Jim Brashear said, “This is what God wants us to do. We’ve been blessed more for it than Earl has. I don’t think Earl knows the name of our church, but Christ wants us to do this.”

Reverend Merrifield was the grandfather of Philip Pullman, who wrote the His Dark Materials trilogy. He told young Philip about a friend of his, named Fred Austin, with whom he had served in World War I. Mr. Austin went to war leaving an infant daughter behind. When he returned home, his daughter was a few years older, and she did not recognize this stranger who had entered her life, and so she ran from him. Eventually, of course, she learned that this man, her father, loved her and so she no longer ran from him. Mr. Pullman wrote much later, “When Grandpa told that story, he said that God would appear to us like that; at first we’d be alarmed and frightened by him, but eventually we’d come to trust his love.” Mr. Pullman loves the classics, and he found a similar story to that of Mr. Austin in an ancient Greek epic poem: Homer’s Iliad. In Book 6, Hector returns home to Troy, where he sees his wife and son. His son is frightened by Hector’s helmet, but when Hector removes his helmet, his son is no longer frightened. Mr. Pullman grew up to become an atheist, and he says, “Between my childhood and now, I’ve lost sight of God, but Hector the Trojan prince and Fred Austin the Devonshire soldier are still brightly alive to me, and so is Grandpa.”

Moby, who is most famous for the theme to Matt Damon’s Jason Bourne movies, is an original guy. In a 1997 interview, he spoke about a family of cockroaches living in his apartment and often standing on a clock. Because of his born-again Christian beliefs, he would not kill them. Moby takes his Christianity seriously, but it may not be the Christianity that the reader is familiar with. At first, in the 1980s, he was celibate and did not indulge in alcohol and drugs; however, he realized that Jesus was not an ascetic person; after all, “he swore, and he drank, and he ran around, and he screamed at people. He loved his friends and was a very human, passionate figure. So I rejected that weird asceticism after thinking about who Christ really was and realizing that I was forcing myself to be something that didn’t feel natural.” As you may expect, people regard Christianity in different ways. Moby was signing autographs at a Detroit rock festival when a woman said to him, “I think it’s really cool that you’re a Christian.” But the man standing beside her said, “You’re a Christian? That’s f**ked up.” Moby said in the interview, “I wanted to say to them, ‘Look, I like both of you, but neither one of you probably understands what word means.’”

One of the Five Pillars of Islam is making the hajj—that is, making a pilgrimage to Mecca. This applies only to those Muslims who are able and can afford to do it, and it need be done only once in a lifetime. Actually, so many Muslims are in the world today that it is physically impossible for them all to make the pilgrimage. Only 2 million Muslims can make the pilgrimage each year due to lack of space in Mecca, and the government of Saudi Arabia uses a quota system for countries, allowing only a certain number of Muslims from each country to make the pilgrimage each year. This actually shows the success of Islam in the modern age. With 1 billion Muslims in the world, and with only 2 million Muslims able to make the pilgrimage each year, for all Muslims alive today to make the pilgrimage would take 500 years.

“CHRISTIAN, n. One who believes that the New Testament is a divinely inspired book admirably suited to the spiritual needs of his neighbor. One who follows the teachings of Christ in so far as they are not inconsistent with a life of sin.”—Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary.

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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