Nicky Gumbel: Christian Faith By Way Of A Secular Jewish Intellectual Upbringing

What kind of Christian lecturer quotes Freddie Mercury, C.S. Lewis, The Gospels, and…Alice Cooper?

I am very grateful to my Facebook friend Safaa Hakim for sending me to Nicky Gumbel today. Stunned, I have had a hard time doing anything except listening to his videos, one after the other. I neglected to even eat anything until it was early evening and I got dizzy from from hunger. He’s honest, real, funny, “modern,” and …Jewish! And now: Christian. This progression makes perfect sense (finally) to me. I know I am excitable and impressionable; I know I have alienated some Truth Barrier readers with my Christian searchings, mostly just confused mutterings, so far. But I have come to think of confusion as a great medium. A train.

Gumbel also seems to have been raised, like so  many of us, on the churches of rock and roll, pop culture, and barren secular sophistication.   I personally relate to him very much. Through his resistances, you’re able to feel spoken to, as yourself–and you recognize the spiritual stalled-out train you have been on.  You want to get off, but you don’t know what to do. Finally, you begin to really listen. No longer does Christianity feel like an inside job, a club that would never have you, or something too esoteric for you to grasp.

I don’t want to sit around for the rest of my life trying to figure out how awful Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump may be. Or prove it. That’s my life? I’m a slave? I swallow nothing but ugly gossip and then I die.


I have come to wonder if Donald Trump is not quasi-Luciferian, in the sense that cultural hatred of him has forced our hand.

Yesterday: Comedian Kathy Griffin held up a decapitated Trump head. Last night she apologized, after considerable public disgust, and today CNN fired her from an upcoming TV event. Before it was over, Chelsea Clinton The Church of Satan (!) had denounced what she did, on Twitter, the modern electronic anti-humanity Church, loaded with millions of “bots” who attack people like swarms of hornets.

All she was doing was trying to impress her masters, who are the ones who got the froth going in the first place–they run it 24/7, and they do it for ratings.

I think Griffin will, at the end of it all, have served light, not darkness, by being willing to, as she said, “go too far,” and “cross a line.” I think this sent many Americans into a new kind of reflection and prayer today.


This one goes out to my son, Jeremy, on his 23rd birthday, today.

I thanked God for him today, in front of a Mary statue I sometimes pray at. But it was the first time in 23 years I even thought to give thanks to God, for the miracle of my own son. Something was clouding my soul: Modernity and an impoverished imagination. Before anything else is said: For me, being a beginner Christian is being a beginner at saying thank you.



Why Liberals Vote For Fascists, by Paul Glover

“Every society, including ours, contains the seed of fascism, ready to sprout from fear and anger. We were taught after World War 2 that “just following orders” made us “good Germans” but bad Americans. We were taught pride in America’s revolutionary history and our obligation to speak against tyranny. We were taught that obedience to evil makes one evil.

So I do not vote for war criminals. And I say so though many friends disagree. Trump would harm us unpredictably. Hillary would harm us systematically. Neither is inclined to push back. They are both creatures of this machine.”


–Paul Glover



I haven’t spoken to him in way too long, but I am privileged to know America’s most incorruptible politician, Paul Glover, and am fascinated by his version of “leftism,” [for now, I’m calling it that.] He manages to do what nobody else I know on the “left” pulls off: Love the earth, hate tyranny, and avoid self-serving hagiography. [Paul Glover might object that I have even placed him on the so-called “left” but for now, it’s a useful word to signal certain values, which don’t include allowing the nation’s rape by corporate banks, war, blowing up mountains, locking up dissidents and whistleblowers, espionage, funding terrorists, or colluding with brutal regimes–for starters. It also does not include overlooking the mass murder of up to 100 million people for the sake of “revolution.”

This is one of the reasons Paul and I get along so well. He never “left-splains” or tries in any way to guilt trip me when I raise these little details, outside of the super-weaponized Very Bad Man Who Is Worse Than Anything Ever.

You can read about Paul at his site, linked above, or at

He is founder of the Los Angeles Greens (1984) and the Ithaca, NY Green Party (1989). He was an environmentalist candidate for Ithaca’s city council (1973), Ithaca’s campaign manager for Ralph Nader (2000), Green Party candidate for mayor of Ithaca (2003), and was invited by GPUSA to participate in the presidential primaries of 2004.

I met Paul in 2008 at an extraordinary “concordium” [conference]  that took place a few years in a row in Concord, Mass. It was based around the idea of “re-seeding,” the American Transcendentalist movement, and it actually took place in structures that were in some case  built by the famous transcendentalists’ own hands, primarily the Alcott family. Drafty wooden wonderful old church like rooms where we sat with wool blankets and spoke without hate, accusation, or interruption for three days–about the lost American dream of freedom and how to bring it back. (The tradition at this concordium was based loosely on the medieval practice of discourse: In order earn the right to speak, you had to first sum up what the previous speaker had said, to that speaker’s satisfaction. Then you could speak.)

Paul Glover’s life of activism is such a blizzard of achievements I can’t do it justice, but for one thing, he introduced the first para-economic system local currency, in Ithaca New York (“Time Dollars,”) and it worked. He has been in Philadelphia for many years now, after leaving Ithaca, and if you see what you could have sworn was a parking lot there, now curiously a blooming community garden–it’s because of Paul Glover.

Another thing that deserves its own interview (I’ll get to it some day) is that Paul walked across the entire United States, in the 1970s. He did this not for any publicity purposes, but just so he could see, feel, and know the landscape, for his emerging vision about how cities can be worked out to harmonize with the land.  Unlike many environmentalist activists, he loves cities, and he believes deeply in their potential for transformation. See the video below, to hear Paul’s vision for the greening transformation of Philadelphia. (Philadelphia.]

Here is the best piece I have read in ages, for those of us who feel trapped in the Titanic of this political discourse with nowhere to go.

It’s called:  Why Liberals Vote For Fascists.


Listening To You: Reinaldo Arenas

“But regardless, if someone is a true writer—not an opportunist who wants to be in favor with the government of the day—that person is always going to be for freedom. Because the simple truth is that without freedom, the writer cannot exist. And the writer who is for freedom is, by definition, not for any totalitarian system. So the duty of the writer is to write well and champion freedom.”
“I do not want to convey to you a message of defeat but of continued struggle and of hope. Cuba will be free. I already am.”

Reinaldo Arenas

July 16, 1943 – December 7, 1990


Is there such a thing as a Cuban novel?

I wouldn’t go so far as to categorically state that a Cuban novel exists. If we compare the Cuban novelistic tradition with the French or English or North American ones, there hasn’t been an accumulation of really impressive works. But Cuba is a surprising and mysterious case, because such a small island that’s rather unfortunate in every way has, in each generation, produced very good poets, novelists, and short-story writers. There’s been an important Cuban literary tradition that, in spite of—or maybe because of—so many hardships, has shown an unusual continuity. This has been demonstrated over two hundred years, in a country where almost nobody reads. With the exception of the police, who read your manuscripts.


Since you’ve been here, have you noticed a difference in perspective? What’s the perception of life compared with in Cuba?


It’s completely different in that here, you don’t feel the weight of a flagrant and inescapable evil. I’m much more relaxed in this sense; I can work more peacefully and my imagination can roam more freely. On the other hand, the experience of having lived in Cuba is also very important, because it’s given me an understanding of history that people who haven’t suffered like that lack. You can no longer see anything with innocent eyes. You know that behind every political system there’s a series of political interests that are what shape you, and people more or less work in agreement with these interests or against them. Knowing this has given me a critical ability that I’ll always be able to use.


What do you think about poetry?

Poetry is part of everything. You can’t have a really good work if it’s not touched by poetry. Poetry manifests itself in millions of ways: as rhythm, metaphor, mood. Sometimes it’s a type of emotional outpouring or necessity that’s not expressed through characters but through feelings. To me, poetry is the tragic sense of man. It’s a way of seeing things in the most complete way, the most absolute, and, to a certain extent, the most perfect. Where there’s no poetry, there’s no beauty, and without beauty no kind of artistic work can exist.


When you think about what you love or what you hate, what would that be?

In what, literature?

No, in general, in life.

What I love most is life itself. I’m very afraid of death. Nevertheless, it seems to me that it’s a solution. It’s the only thing that gives meaning to life! (Laughter.) I really like people in general. People, the mystery of the human being, and the sea above all. The sea is a mystery.

What I don’t like is … well, just imagine. There are so many things not to like. Stupidity, which is something terrible, and the militarization of the world. Dogma. When someone talks to me about some dogma, I can no longer talk with that person. Dogma can be religious as well as political; it’s the same. You can’t engage in any dialogue because the person is already wielding an absolute truth. It’s like pounding on a rock—there’s no way in. I think that, in the end, what I hate most in the world is fanaticism.

Does a writer have a duty to himself and to society?

The writer has a fundamental responsibility to write well or to write the best he can, because if he doesn’t he’s not a writer. And when a writer writes, he’s always referring to a social and historical context. It’s impossible for Argentinian writers not to write as Argentinians, because to be Argentinian is a circumstance of fate, like it is to be Cuban. When you analyze the bourgeois writer’s novel, you see the shortcomings of bourgeois society. Even when you try to write a fantasy story, in some way that fantasy is going to be connected to a reality. But regardless, if someone is a true writer—not an opportunist who wants to be in favor with the government of the day—that person is always going to be for freedom. Because the simple truth is that without freedom, the writer cannot exist. And the writer who is for freedom is, by definition, not for any totalitarian system. So the duty of the writer is to write well and champion freedom. And he champions freedom because he has an obligation—what better obligation than this?

Complete interview In The New Yorker here.