Enough, Enough Already!

If you have been following this blog, you know that I am an unapologetic, bleeding-heart Democrat. I have never voted for a Republican as best as I can remember and have been accused in the past of falling into the “Yellow Dawg” category, voting for a Democrat who happened to be a yellow dog. I have also been inclined to support Democrats financially who are in tight races in swing states. Since the 2022 Mid Terms are probably the most important midterm elections in our time, I have spread around my modest contributions to a lot of candidates.

For this I have paid a price. As the saying goes, no good deed goes unpunished.

Since I started sending money to progressive Democratic candidates via the internet last spring, I have gotten lots of text messages and emails and phone calls, but the harassment has grown exponentially over the past several weeks as election day nears. Even though I have gone through the “Unsubscribe” exercises and “Stop” exercises a couple times, somehow the candidates keep finding a way around this and keep badgering me. Plus, the list of email senders keeps expanding. All it takes I conclude is to give money to one candidate and your name and contact information become viral again and passed around to any candidate looking for a soft touch.

Here are the average daily statistics for last week:

  • Around 20 calls a day to our land line, where the “DNC” name often comes up or the message “unnamed caller.” I hardly ever answer these calls, but the few that I have answered have been from political campaigns. No one ever leaves a message.
  • About 15 text messages a day from desperate candidates, almost all of which are doom and gloom, “no way I can win without more help from you” kind of thing.
  • About 30 email messages a day. Ah, the emails. They are the worst. A typical email starts off with something like, “Joe, I am weeping, literally weeping, there is no hope, send money now…” or “Joe, are you still a Democrat? What has happened?” or “Joe, who do like more, Trump, or Biden? Please take the survey, which will only be counted if you send more money.…” or “Joe, could you chip in $3 to help me avoid defeat by a terrible opponent who is stomping me?” And then when you go to the donation part, there is no place for a $3 contribution, the lowest amount being $25. Well, that is not so bad, but why then ask for only three bucks? Bait and switch.

As is evident, I am on the verge of election fatigue/mental breakdown. I get about five emails a day from Fetterman, even more from Tim Ryan, some only minutes apart. Stacy Abrams and Raphael Warnock are not far behind. Then there is Cheri Beasley (NC), Mandela Barnes (Wisconsin), Maggie Hassan (NH), Charlie Crist (Florida), Mark Kelly (Arizona) and of course the multiple emails from Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, James Carville, Move On, the Lincoln Project, and the National Democratic Party, the Democratic Senate group, the Democratic House group and from countless other organizations and candidates, some that I have never even heard of. The winner of this disparate group was a guy wanting $5 for his campaign to be a dog catcher in a small town in Oregon. Well, ok, not really, but you get the point.

I do not know who is responsible for all of this, but I think at some point it must become counter productive and borders on being outrageous. Perhaps research shows that pleas of desperation and doom and gloom get better results than upbeat positive messages like, “Joe, thanks so much for your support in the past and because of you and others like you our campaign is going great, and we are within striking distance of a win. Could you help get us across the finish line?” Not a single message that I can remember is even close to this. In fact, I do not believe I have received one “thank you” from any candidate that I have given money to. They know I have contributed and have this information. It is true that my contributions are not large, but still.

Shame on you, Democrats! I will not abandon you, but I have to say that if this is the best you can do, no wonder we are in deep trouble, likely to lose the House, and the Senate is still a toss up.





Oh, For Those Good Old, Cleveland Park Dinner Parties

This week Embry and I attended what I would call an old fashioned, Cleveland Park dinner party. Cleveland Park is the Washington neighborhood we lived in for over 40 years before moving to the apartment house we live in now only a couple of blocks away.

This was only the third time in the last three years of Covid quarantine that we have been invited out to someone’s house or apartment for dinner. It reminded me of the dinner parties of old when we were young and just beginning to make our way in Washington. The hostess, a former neighbor in Cleveland Park, who now lives in a stunning apartment in a fabulous, iconic apartment house not far from our old neighborhood, prepared a splendid feast and invited one couple who are our close friends and another couple we had never met. Conversation was lively and interesting, and it turned out the guests we did not know were classmates of Embry’s brother at Yale Law School in the late 1960s. Due to Covid, old age, and the vagaries of life, these types of evenings rarely happen anymore. I could not help thinking back 40 plus years when they used to occur once or twice a month, and, alas, how much I loved them then, and still miss them now.

In 1972 Embry and I moved to Washington from Chapel Hill where we had both been graduate students.  Our son, Andrew, was about two at the time and Jessica was not born yet. We packed our old Toyota station wagon to the brim.  Minette, our beloved cat, a combination Siamese and Russian Blue, sat in the backseat next to Andrew. This was a time when a young couple with two entry level jobs could afford to live in a close-in, DC neighborhood.  We bought a single family, fixer-upper next to the Cleveland Park Public Library and within a mile of the National Cathedral, even closer to the National Zoo, and not far from several highly regarded schools. It was then and remains now an ideal urban neighborhood with large, single-family homes under towering shade trees, stately apartment buildings, and only a short walk to the Metro and neighborhood shopping and restaurants. The only difference is that today, a young couple with entry level jobs can’t afford to live there. We paid $40,000 for our house in 1972, a rounding error of what it would be worth today. We lived in that house for over 40 years and never regretted it for a moment.

But as attractive as the neighborhood was then and continues to be, what I remember most are the neighbors and friends we had while living there. We moved in before the neighborhood had the cachet it has now and at a time when a lot of people our age were moving in. The time was magical: All these 30-somethings moving to Washington—many ending up in our neighborhood. They were from all over the country, mostly Type-As, some with degrees from elite colleges and universities, and most with graduate or professional degrees. And most of us had the same goal—to make a difference, to leave a mark, to be in the fray, and to be where the action is. Making money and social status may have been a factor for some but never mentioned. Almost everyone we knew  was a Democrat, liberal, smart, energetic, and focused on careers. Most were couples with young children. Women were just as educated, focused and ambitious as men. They had their law or advanced degree, and they landed the same types of career-track jobs as their husbands. Of course, there were exceptions though few were stay-at-home moms or housewives, and the women that did not have career-track jobs were usually neighborhood activists and community leaders.

It was fabulous! How often do you get a chance to live in a neighborhood where so many people are  interesting and smart, have similar values, and are on a pathway to try to leave a mark? Naturally, there were a whole lot of lawyers, some with degrees from famous law schools and many involved in the political arena, but there were also a whole lot of others just as interesting and just as smart—architects, engineers, artists, teachers, college professors, policy wonks, civil servants, journalists, writers, activists, legislative aids, nonprofit workers, and researchers. There were few businessmen or women (except for realtors) and only a couple of doctors. Of course, there were older people who had been living in Cleveland Park for some time who did have traditional business jobs and  careers but few of those types  were moving in at the time we arrived or  became part of our social network. I did not know anyone who belonged to a country club or had any desire to join one.  I knew only a handful of Republicans.

However, Cleveland Park was not entirely  the Never-never land I am suggesting. Every neighborhood has its kooks and eccentrics, and Cleveland Park had its share. I am especially  sad to confess that almost all our friends were white, many from privileged backgrounds, and that still applies to the neighborhood today. Lingering de facto segregation continues and remains a thorn in our national flesh. There is some truth, I suppose, in the complaints by Trump supporters and others that we “progressives” in Washington are a bunch of coastal elites born with silver spoons in our mouths and insensitive to “ordinary people.” Despite these criticisms, Embry and I loved the people and the place. I make no apologies.

And this is where the dinner parties come in. That is how you met some of these interesting and engaging people, who might live up the street or around the block. We would get a call from a friend to come over for a casual dinner on a Saturday where a few other friends of the host would also be  gathered. Eight to ten people would be a typical number. We would know about half the guests and make new friends with the guests we did not already know. The who-do-you-know exchanges would often happen in the early hours, and almost always there were mutual friends identified  regardless of where people grew up or attended college. The mood and ambience were casual and the food delicious—sometimes potluck– with lots of talk about great issues and great challenges and interesting things that happened this week on Capitol Hill or at City Hall or that think tank or that government agency. Empty bottles of wine started to pile up early. Sitting around the table the conversation was both chit chat and group dialogue. What came home to me almost every time was how interesting and smart these people were and how engaged with the world.  The parties would go on until after 10 or even later before people started to head home—sometimes staggering.

Then it would be our turn. I guess that Embry and I hosted these dinner party gatherings of friends (many, but not all just with Cleveland Park neighbors) at least quarterly and sometimes more often. And like other hosts we tried to mix it up with about half the guests not already friends but who we thought would be compatible, and we were almost always right. This is how  social networks grow and how people expand friendships. It was hard work pulling off a  dinner party but always fun and always worth it. I loved it. Embry is less enthusiastic, remembering how much work was involved in hosting but also looks back on that time of youthful energy with fondness.

I can’t remember the time the dinner parties started to peter out but think it was in the late 1980s or early 1990s when everyone’s kids were then mostly in college, when work was most demanding since most of us were about as far along in our careers as we were going to get, had lots of responsibilities, and, frankly,  no longer had  the energy to pull off a dinner party. The ones that did happen were fewer and smaller, and eating out with friends at a restaurant became the preferred option.

Of course, life changes over time. Most of us living in Cleveland Park in the 1970s and 1980s are now in our 80s or close to it. Some of our friends have moved out of the neighborhood. Some marriages have failed. Some have died. Some now live in long term care or retirement communities. But over the long haul many friendships have continued.

In those early, heady days of the 70s  and 80s when there was so much youthful drive, energy,  determination, and optimism, how many of us over the years were able to live out our ambitions and to achieve our goals? Did any of us live up to our potential,  make a dent, or make the world a better place, even if ever so slightly?

I think we who moved into Cleveland Park in the 1970s are less sanguine now about how to answer those questions. The world is surely in worse shape now than it was in those days, and this has happened on our watch. You know the litany: climate change, continuing race and class divisions, greater disparity in incomes between the ultra rich and everyone  else, Trumpism,  and the threats to our democracy. The Russia-Ukraine War continues with no end in sight, and Putin is threatening a nuclear “solution.” China has now become an enemy. There are probably more dictators in the world now than there were then, in those early days. So perhaps the more apt question is not whether we achieved our dreams but whether we ran the race as best as we could. I suspect many of us would answer yes to that question.










Back in the Saddle (So to Speak)

Several people have reached out to me to ask if I am still alive, since I have gone a month without a blog post. The answer is yes, but I am the first to admit that 2022 has not been one of my best years.

The major culprit, of course, is Covid. Hammered on a cruise ship in Iceland, I recovered just in time in early July to test negative and upon leaving the ship, did not have to be transferred to a “Covid Hotel” in Copenhagen. What I did not know then was that Covid was not finished with me. I have self-diagnosed as having Long Covid because the original Covid symptoms have now returned three times, all seemingly triggered by my overdoing it—after I had attempted to resume my regular activities of getting out and about, routine walking 2-3 miles a day, and doing volunteer activities associated with work on various nonprofit boards. Being hospitalized in Portland ME for another bout of BVS did not help much either (see previous blog posts about the incidents when I ended up in the emergency room at Washington Hospital Center and recently in Portland, ME, “ER Adventures 2022”). These recurrences have tended to last two to three weeks before I feel like I am able to get back to normal and declare myself free from this horrid disease. Then for a few days I am fine only to be hammered again with total fatigue and exhaustion, coughing, body aches and malaise. As I write this post, I feel fine, and have felt almost normal for three or four days. Tomorrow I could be hammered again by my unwelcomed nemesis.

So that is the story. But some have suggested that I do not have Long Covid, only a pesky respiratory virus with no name. It really does not make a difference what you call it, it is what it is, and as the saying goes, “sucks.”

Now one reason that there has not been a formal diagnosis is that the healthcare plan that I have has recently been changed so that there is a long wait period before you are able to see your primary care physician. You now must go online to get a “phone appointment” lasting 15-30 minutes. I signed up for the first open phone appointment about six weeks ago and will at last talk to my primary care doctor (whom I like) this Friday for the first time since coming down with Covid in late June.

I understand that Covid has changed the way we live and work on the Planet Earth and especially in the U.S. where hospitals have been overwhelmed. Health care workers are burned out and scarce, and hospital and medical systems are trying to cope. I have been tempted to switch Medicare insurance providers during this “open season,” but have resisted because I have about a half dozen doctors that I depend on in this system and am pleased with all of them. To try to start over is just too hard, and few of the people whom I have talked to who are in different systems are enthusiastic about the doctors or Medicare plans they have.  The nurses and doctors are not the problem for me.  

So, what is wrong with the health system I belong to? The post Covid protocol is first to refer anyone who has a health issue to the nearest emergency room. But how do you know if your health issue warrants an emergency room visit? And who wants to go to an emergency room unless you absolutely have to? During my two days in the Washington Hospital Center emergency room, I was confined to a dark corner separated by a thin curtain from the hustle and bustle of stretchers moving in and out carrying victims of gunshot and knife wounds, drug overdoses, car wrecks and heart attacks. This would be my last choice.

The second option is to go to an urgent care center. I have been to the urgent care center in my system three times, each involving a wait of several hours and then not getting a definitive diagnosis. If I was not very sick before the visit, I was after I departed. Not a very appealing option for me.

The third and final option is to call an “advice nurse,” who will hear your story and determine if you should talk to a doctor. This was the option that I selected; and after hearing my sad story, the nurse said I would receive a call from a physician who was at a hospital about 20 miles away. The doctor did call within a few minutes, listened to my story, was caring and supportive, and prescribed antibiotics for a sinus infection. She did ask me if I had had Covid and had all my vaccinations and boosters, but there was no mention of Long Covid.

So there you have it. This is the way health care now works in the United States—at least in some large health care systems. There are probably good reasons for some of this, but the idea of keeping patients away from their primary care physicians is idiocy. They are the ones who know you and have your medical history and are supposed to be your advocate. That used to be the case in the system I am in, but no longer. Your options are now emergency rooms, urgent care centers, and doctors who have never met you and never will, and interface with you briefly via phone or video. Does this make any sense? Not for patients like me, who may never know if I suffer from Long Covid but frankly do not care if someone, anyone, can keep these meltdowns with Covid-like symptoms from happening.





Embry’s Last Stan Post

This is my last missive from my trip to the Stans. This evening we flew from Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, where we had a short but wonderful time in that land of nomads. We saw a sporting event yesterday whereby very skilled horsemen, divided into two teams, rode around the field trying to pick up a dead sheep, galloped down the field, and threw it into a big receptacle while the other team of horsemen tried to prevent them. It’s like a cross between American football and polo, but much rougher. 

The city of Bishkek is surrounded by spectacular, high snowcapped mountains, the Tian Sian range, some 20,000 feet tall. However, the mountains are shrouded most of the time by clouds and smog. When they come into view periodically, it is breathtaking. 

One of the things we learned about in Kyrgyzstan in more detail was  the devastating consequences of the breakup of the former Soviet Union on that small country. Apparently three countries–Russia, Belorussia, and Ukraine–got together and decided to break up the Soviet Union. The Central Asian countries (“the Stans”) were not consulted, but just handed the decision as a fait accompli.  The factories closed almost immediately (due to diminished demand), and the economy plummeted almost overnight. A large proportion of the Russians who had held prominent positions in the government and society left and returned to Russia. Both Russia and Belorussia invited them back, and some who remained feared discrimination and even retribution. Many skilled Kyrgyz people also left to find jobs elsewhere, mostly to Russia. There was hyperinflation combined with high unemployment. The poor suffered the most as is almost always the case. 

Privatization of real estate happened quickly. If you had inhabited an apartment or house for a certain amount of time, it became yours if you filed the paperwork properly. Around Bishkek, which is in general a lovely city, you see many dilapidated apartment houses, which seem out of place in the rapidly developing city with some attractive  new buildings. These older buildings are apparently the buildings where people got free apartments. Now there is little money or good cooperative governance in place to fix up the buildings, which have been slowly deteriorating over the past 30 years. I haven’t got a handle on how the collective farms were privatized, but the government ownership of land also was ended in rural areas.

While there were negative consequences, and apparently many older people are nostalgic about former Soviet times, the youthful population is happier about the changes; and there is overall an optimistic spirit. Still, many youth have to go abroad, usually to Russia, to earn a living so it’s a mixed bag.

I think the Russians have the right idea about immigration. While the circumstances and economies are different, Russia and the US both have a shortage of unskilled labor. Yet they encourage Central Asians to migrate to Russia for work and give them work permits easily along with a path to citizenship. They are allowed to go back and forth to their home countries as they like.  We, on the other hand, force hardworking immigrants to come illegally to do the jobs that Americans don’t want for low pay and keep them in the shadows so that they have no legal status and cannot return home to see their families. It is an unnecessary and cruel system (or non-system).

But as challenging as life is here in the Stans, many people remain hopeful and most have greeted us with warmth and hospitality. Here is how I have communicated with the wonderful people I have met along the way. To greet anyone, I just say “A-salamu Aleicum” which is “Peace be with you” in Arabic, but works in any Muslim country as a polite greeting.  For “thank you” I learned “Rachman” (I have no idea if I am spelling it correctly), but “Spaciba” which is Russian (perhaps also misspelled) also always works. To emphasize respect or thanks, they have a lovely gesture, which is to hold your right hand over your heart. With these, and a good translator at close hand, I have had no problems.

I will close my missives with this story: Yesterday we took a trip to the countryside and stopped by a farm for lunch and to see how they make their beautiful felt rugs. Each rug involves many hours of tedious work. The rugs originally were used to decorate their yurts (no longer used much).  I had been working on a piece of needlepoint as we rode along, and our guide encouraged me to show my needlework to the ladies of the farm. This caused a big excitement. I showed them how I did the stitching, and one of them immediately began to work on it! (I am sorry I didn’t take along some needlepoint to give them.)

That’s it for my missives from the Stans. Now back to the U.S. This is a fascinating part of the world with a rich history dating back thousands of years, yet rarely visited by Americans. It seems to get lost, nestled as it is between two giants, Russia and China, and still suffering from many years of Czarist and Soviet domination, lack of natural resources, population loss, regional instability (Afghanistan and Iran), and environmental degradation. However, a strong spirit of determination and regional pride remain, and the gems of stunning landscapes, charming ancient buildings, beautiful crafts and artwork are worth a visit by any adventuresome tourist. However, it is not for the faint of heart. I told  Joe he made the right call to miss this one.



Embry’s Stans Stories Midway in the Journey

I am taking a welcomed day off here in Tashkent, while the other hardy travelers (including two 80+ year olds!) trek around Tashkent in the heat.  I couldn’t be happier. Perhaps the schedule for our day yesterday will help you understand why I am sitting by the pool reading and writing.


  • Woke up call at 6:30 (actually a door knock due to lack of a working phone in the room).
  • Packed up and took a quick shower.
  • Ate breakfast. Yea, I can actually eat now! (The tourista has at last subsided.)
  • Bus left at 8 for a long, bumpy ride to Nukus.
  • Stopped along the way to see and take pictures of camels.
  • Stopped along the way to tromp around ruins of ancient fortresses of the First Millennium BC. There is not lots of information on who these folks were, but the assumption is they were Persian speakers and followers of Zoroastrianism (Acmaeid Empire). If so, they believed in a single deity, good and evil, and had influence on a lot of other subsequent world religions including Judaism. They built their fortresses up high for protection from invaders, so I had to make a climb that should really have been outside my ability level, but I did it anyway, in some cases on hands and knees (along with three other of our group–not the guides, who knew what was involved!).
  • Ate on the bus and enjoyed the desert scenery.
  • Arrived in Nukus and visited the very interesting museum founded by a Russian artist and art collector, Igor Savitsky. This museum is important, because Savitsky collected art from avant  guarde artists from the Soviet era whose art was banned. He even showed some of it during Soviet times in this very out of the way place. When the Soviet inspectors would arrive, he would hide it in the basement and hang some Soviet realist art that he also collected .
  • Drove a long way out of town on more bumpy roads to some mausoleums that were also way up on top of another hill. Perhaps they bury the dead up high from the Zoroastrian tradition of putting the dead out for crows to eat? At this point, I didn’t really want to see another mausoleum (although many are beautiful), having seen and admired many, many of them already on the trip. I sat down in the shade to wait for the group, and when they returned, I asked what it was like. My dead-tired compatriot mumbled (” AD, BC, AD, BC…”). In other words, he had no idea.
  • Next, we rode back in to town to have a wonderful dinner in a private home that I could at last enjoy fully. I took a video of their charming daughter playing a local stringed instrument and singing. At dinner, we heard a presentation from a scientist who has started a local NGO concerning potential restoration of the Aral Sea.
  • Then we drove to the airport for our 10:30 flight to Tashkent, arriving to our hotel at 1 am.!

A tiring and typical day.

Here are a few other observations:

Water and water rights are a huge issue here because the whole region is arid, and the rivers are drying up. We learned in the evening lecture that the methods of irrigation lead to a waste of about 80% of the water, which is a solvable problem, but the ineffective governments are doing nothing about it. The water comes from the Pamir mountains, which are in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, but it flows down to the other countries. Along the way it is siphoned off, leading to  poisoning  the water sources through chemicals and salinification (of which the Aral Sea is the greatest example). Likely over time a need for water may lead to more conflict than oil in this dry region. 

Women’s Rights: I have not been able to get a handle on this. Walking around town, you see no women fully veiled, although that was the tradition up through the 19th Century. Indeed, in those days women rarely left home, following a system that is more like that imposed by the Taliban today. Apparently, with equal education, women here are freer than before, perhaps one of a benefit from Soviet times, along with better public health and education. Still, most marriages are arranged, family sizes are large, and most women work at home and not in professions. In addition, even today, women do not got to the mosque or attend funerals, which seems quite severe. It is really a mixed bag.

Renovation vs reconstruction of national monuments: Most of the buildings of the World Heritage sites we have visited are beautiful and even pristine. But then you start to wonder how much is original. I always ask, and have gotten a hodgepodge of answers, from 40% original to 60%, etc. I imagine it’s not really known. This is one of the huge benefits of UNESCO designation, because they have guidelines for the process of renovation that must be followed to achieve designation, which brings prestige and tourism. Apparently, the renovation process started in the19th Century (in a limited way) on important sites that were falling into ruin. The Russians continued, although they concentrated on non-religious sites and sometimes destroyed some of the beautiful Kufic script Koran writing. The renovations have picked up since “independence” (1991), as a matter of national pride. The World Heritage sites are truly magnificent (Samarkand, Bokara, and Khiva), and I have become more of an admirer of the work of UNESCO after this visit. Of all things, the US has withdrawn our support of UNESCO, due to some dispute between Israel and Palestine.  What!?




Embry’s Stan Stories Days 6-7

Kiva was our next stop on the Silk Road in Uzbekistan. As we rode into town–after a 7-hour bumpy ride across a mostly desert landscape– I could see that the old city has a very different look than the other places we have been so far (and equally beautiful).

Note that the Silk Road” is not really a road. The term was coined by a historian in the 19th century to represent the trade routes across the desert and mountains to get from Italy through Central Asia and into China. I’m sure these routes existed for centuries for shorter distances, but in Tang Dynasty China they took off as a way to get goods in and out of China to the West. This is the way Marco Polo went on his long journey, that he documented in his memoirs. So that’s why we see beautiful rugs and oriental China in renaissance paintings. Riding through the vast desert yesterday, I asked how they kept from getting lost on those long journeys. It was apparently the same techniques as the great sea voyagers used to cross the oceans, such as using stars and   instruments like the sextant.  There were trains of camels and horses, led by a specialist in finding the way. Along the way were “caravanserai,” which were places to sleep and rest/water the animals.  The water was brought from the rivers in tunnels (such as from the Syr Darya and Amu Darya rivers) and stored in specialized cisterns.

Cotton was–and is– also a critical factor in the region.  Cotton in Central Asia played a similar role as in the deep South, both before and after the Civil War.  In the U.S., the cheap labor needed to grow and pick the cotton by hand was provided by slaves or poor blacks tied to the same fields they worked in during slavery.  In Central Asia, it was provided by poor farmers who–after Communism–were organized into collective farms. These farms had production quotas passed down from Moscow to the farm and then to the individual laborer. Because these were often unreasonable quotas, corruption occurred whereby from the bottom up to the top, through many bureaucratic layers, bribes encouraged people to lie about actual production.

Corruption is prevalent both in the public and private sectors. Perhaps this is because it was so prevalent in the Communist era just to get by, and then it became somewhat engraved in daily life. A story told by our guide was of the daughter of the former president. Nepotism, another form of corruption  is also prevalent. Apparently, she held a high office (perhaps a Minister of Commerce), where she had to approve all the contracts for things like roads and bridges. She imposed a 10% cut off the top for any construction project, which went into her personal bank account.  This was exposed by a brave internal auditor, who was ultimately fired by her dad. Of all things, this lady was also the Uzbekistani Ambassador to the UN! Apparently, the European Bank of Reconstruction has now put restrictions on the money they provide. However, a lot of the money they provide for roads is still wasted, and the work is shoddy. The Chinese (who perhaps have more tolerance for corruption) have a different approach, which to send in their own workers.

Another similarity with the American South is that the unemployment caused by the dissolution of the collective farms after the breakup of the former Soviet Union, caused young men to migrate to Russia for work to fill low paying jobs, a movement like our Great Migration. Just as Russia needs the cotton, they now–with their population decline—also need these workers. Yet my impression is that Uzbeks prefer to move to the U.S. Around the towns you see big signs that say “GREEN CARD,” advertising places where they help you fill out an application for the US green card lottery. The Central Asian nations are pushing back, however, saying local workers must be hired.  Our guide said, “Why should we send our boys to work in Russia  when we could have them working here?”

A terrible consequence of cotton production is that cotton is a “thirsty crop,” which requires intensive irrigation at key points in the growing cycle. Consequently, due to diversion of water from the rivers, there was a slow evaporation of the huge inland Aral Sea, which now seems beyond saving. (Windstorms carry dust that is salty and polluted with chemicals around the region.) This ecological disaster, along with corruption encouraged by the production quotas, are key factors in the breakup of the former Soviet Union.

However, lot of cotton is still grown here, and now is the time for picking. The fields are white, and we see many people (mostly women) bent over picking the cotton.

Central Asia is a fascinating part of the world, with a rich history, stunning landscape, ancient cities, and lingering challenges that will profoundly affect the future of the region.


Embry’s Stan Posts 2

Day Four (Still in Uzbekistan)

For a map of Central Asia, click here:

Caucasus central asia political map 2000 – Central Asia – Wikipedia

Here’s what we did today, pretty much of a typical day, and one reason the Smithsonian discouraged those not up for an exhausting tour:

  • Up at dawn, breakfast and then on the bus at 8
  • Visit to Timur’s mausoleum (beautiful)
  • Visit to Ulug Beg’s observatory 
  • Archeological site from the Sogdiana period
  • Lunch in elegant restaurant 
  • Trip to factory for silk rugs (no, I did not buy one)
  • Visit to a bakery
  • Dinner in family home
  • Whew, off to bed

Here is what we experienced:

 After coming back from Tajikistan to Uzbekistan, we drove in the bus and ended up in Samarkand, a city in southeastern Uzbekistan. Things have gotten a lot more interesting in terms of beautiful historical sights. We have seen one after another amazing buildings of classic Islamic architecture from the Timurid period (14th and 15th Centuries).  Timur (otherwise known as Tamerlane) was an Uzbek warrior who kicked out the Mongols (although he married into Genghis Khan’s family) and established a rather fragile empire, which broke up within a century after his death in the early 15th century. (They had not worked out their rules of succession as well as the British!)  He encouraged learning and brought in architects and artists from around the world. We have seen the madrassas (schools) and tombs (mausoleums) that the Timurids built.  His grandson, Ulug Beg, was also a warrior, but also a brilliant astronomer, who built on Greek and Indian astronomy to map many of the stars well before the Europeans. Luckily his students saved some of his writings, which were passed down and preserved.

A few other items:

Music and Arts:  The Uzbeks and Tajiks have an artistic and expressive society, with amazing crafts, music, and dance. We saw a person play several of the traditional instruments, which are a huge range of stringed instruments, each different is size, the number of strings, how they are made (with which wood), and how they are played (plucked or bowed). The other common traditional instruments are flutes and tambourines that serve as the drums.

Money: They must have had some hyperinflation along the way because all denominations of the money are in the thousands. For example, 1000 “som” is 20 cents, and I have never seen any lower denomination (few coins or lower bills).  So I asked an innocent and naive question about why they don’t just log off three zeros to make the arithmetic easier.  The answer was practical; it would take a lot of money to redo all the bills and machines to make the bills, etc. Of course, they are all used to this crazy system and see no problem with it, just like us and our pennies.

Clothing: While people don’t wear the most elaborate traditional dress day-to-day, most people (except for youth in the cities, who wear jeans and T-shirts) do not dress in “Western” dress.  Most women wear very colorful flowered long dresses, and older women over middle age usually have something on their heads, usually a scarf. I have never seen a face covering (including a covid mask, which is another story). Older men often wear a typical Uzbek cap, which can be colorful or black.

Food: We have been constantly overfed, with buffets for breakfast, three or four courses for lunch, and the same for dinner. Each meal (lunch and dinner) starts with an elaborate display of salads. I have gotten lots of pictures of these colorful displays. Then we have a soup (today at lunch a delicious borscht). Then there is the main course, usually meat (sometimes kabobs) with rice and potatoes. Finally, there is fruit and usually also a sweet dessert.  I don’t know how they expect you to eat all this, but you can see why I am struggling to overcome an upset stomach. Still it is good, and especially to look at.

Personalities: I noticed a distinct difference century between Uzbek and Tajik people. This was confirmed by our guide as a “type,” with obviously many exceptions, Uzbeks are more reserved, and Tajiks are more outgoing–perhaps like the contrast between Japanese and  Chinese people.  As an example, at the hotel where we stayed in Tajikistan, the proprietress gave us hugs, turned on the boom box, and had us dancing around with her after breakfast. In Tajikistan, everyone was happy for me to take their picture, which wasn’t always the case in Uzbekistan. 




Embry Howell’s “Stans” Travel Posts

Note to reader: While I am continuing to recover from my Covid ordeal, I am posting several email posts from Embry, who spent almost three weeks this September touring “the Stans,” the Central Asian countries along the “Silk Road.” Sponsored by the Smithsonian, the tour had been postponed for the past two years due to Covid. When Embry had originally signed up two years ago, I had not elected to participate since the trip was described along the lines of “not for the weak hearted.”  Though most of the original participants had cancelled out by the fall of 2022, some six adventurous souls showed up along with a Smithsonian guide and a local guide. Two of the tourists were classmates at Smith College, graduating in 1957. 

Central Asia (2019) has a population of about 72 million people, in five countries: Kazakhstan (pop. 19 million), Kyrgyzstan (7 million), Tajikistan (10 million), Turkmenistan (6 million), and Uzbekistan (35 million). The trip started and ended in Uzbekistan covering almost three weeks. They visited all but one of the “Stans” spending a day or two in each country. Her first post which follows was on Day two from Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan.

This is Day 2 on my trip to the “Stans,” and I am in Tashkent. I’m also pretty worn out, both from jet lag, a touch of “tourista”, and what Joe calls the “forced march” aspect of these kind of tours. Every local guide wants to show you everything about their city. Afterall, it’s their job. We have been to two cities so far, and both are still in their Post-Soviet phase, with old Soviet statues and buildings around.  Since there is not that much else to see, we ride the bus to this monument and that one.  Here are the highlights:

Tashkent: We spent an afternoon here yesterday, but  there really isn’t lots to see. (We will be back at the end of the tour and will go to the market.)They are proud that they have taken down all the Lenin paraphernalia, and also are slowly changing the signs from Cyrillic to Latin script (which they call “Uzbeki script”). Many children no longer take Russian in school, another part of slow de-Russification.

The most interesting part of the afternoon was a visit to the craft museum.  The crafts are truly beautiful.  However, we did not need to see the Soviet era statue honoring the earthquake of 1966 victims, which was devastating (The government refused to publish the number of deaths.) They are anxious to have more private enterprise, which their new leader encourages. I was told they have three parties, but one dominates. Still, they are drifting towards the West, which I imagine does not please Mr. Putin. They were essentially a colony of Russia dating back to Czarist times. The crop was cotton (same in Tajikistan), and the irrigation drained the Aral Sea, which is now an empty, polluted wasteland. 

Now there is evidence of prosperity, including lots of cars bearing a Chevrolet insignia due to a collaboration between Chevy and a local business. There are also small shops and nice restaurants. We had dinner at a very charming one last evening and stayed a second night at our excellent Korean-owned hotel. 

Our guide told us about his time in the Communist Youth where he was very good at picking cotton in the summers, which enabled him to get into a good university. 

24-hour day trip to Tajikistan:  We drove to the border (only 70 km away) on one bus, walked across and picked up the local bus and guide. Just getting across the border (on foot) was quite tedious. I had to wonder who on earth they are looking for: terrorists or smugglers?  (About 10 people checked my passport.) But is this a way to encourage tourism? Maybe it’s a jobs program. 

Along the way, from the bus I enjoyed seeing food crops, animals, and cotton in the fields with very high, dry mountains as a beautiful backdrop. You still see a lot of manual labor in the fields (few tractors and even a donkey cart or two), so the level of development seems like Sub-Saharan Africa. We arrived mid-morning to Tajikistan’s second largest city, Khosand, which is located on the Syr Darya River, a (formerly) big river which seems to be slowly drying up and changing to marsh. (I’m sure this is partially due to climate change, although the local guide never mentioned this.) 

This local guide speaks English very well and has entertaining stories. He told about the arranged marriage system, which is still prevalent and apparently similar to what exists in Uzbekistan. The parents of a boy (who has finished his education and mandatory military service, usually) begin to shop for a bride while the young man often goes to Russia to work and make money for the wedding, which is very expensive.  They must buy all the costumes (I got pictures) and pay a dowry.  Pity the family that has more than two boys (the younger boy is responsible for the parents in their old age). They have very large families, an average of 5 kids with more in rural areas. Apparently, the young people have very little to say about their mate. 90% of marriages are arranged, although the guide said this is going down and may now be 80%. Another example of traditional values is that women never go to the mosque. However, they like to have female teachers and doctors (for girls and women), so if a girl finishes secondary school, she can go to university. She is allowed to get married and have children while she does this (since girls are generally much younger than the boys), and they get some government support.

We had a heavy lunch (3 courses), but I only had soup and RC Cola (made in Columbus, Georgia according to the label), which they apparently love here.  Then we started our “forced march” which consisted of visiting various Soviet-era parks. They had the largest Lenin statue in Central Asia, which I guess some people wanted to I keep. The compromise was to take him down and put him in a very neglected park out of town, where he keeps company with some pictures of other Soviet heroes. Maybe this will happen to Robert E Lee in the U.S. South. 

He was replaced by a statue of another ancient hero. They have many to choose from, because of the many invasions. While not comprehensive these include: the Sassnids, who were Persian and practiced Zoroastrianism; Alexander the Great, who built a huge castle/fort which they are trying to restore with help from UNESCO; Arabs (who brought the arts and sciences along with Islam,  which seems to be practiced rather casually here by most people); Genghis Khan, who apparently passed through the area during the Mongol invasion; Timur (his descendant, known in the West as Tamerlane) , who brought more literature and arts/architecture; and the Russians at the time of the Czars and continued under Communism. (This is the history of all Central Asia, which is bloody and sad.)

A final sad phase was at the time of the breakup of the former Soviet Union. There were three factions: one wanted to continue Communism, one wanted to establish an Islamic state, and one (with many youth) wanted democracy. To figure this out, they fought a bloody Civil War in which 150,000 were killed. I do not remember reading much about this at the time.  I still do not understand why these gentle, and apparently peaceful, people put up with all this, but I’m guessing it must be leadership.

At end of this really exhausting day, we went to the market which is a true market, used by all the farmers of the surrounding area, and where everyone shops for food. A long exhausting day and the start of a great adventure.




What About These Praise Churches?

Note to reader: This essay was composed almost a month ago when I was visiting my  daughter’s family in Maine and Embry was touring the “Stans” on a Smithsonian tour. The week I returned to DC, I collapsed with what I have self diagnosed as Long Covid. Embry has her doubts about the accuracy of my self diagnosis, but in any event I am happy to report that I am finally beginning to feel better and hopefully am on the mend.

As is now common knowledge, mainline Protestant churches have been shrinking for the last several decades. I am what is called a “cradle Episcopalian,” which means, “born and bred in the Episcopal Church.” In the 1950s Episcopalians numbered about 3.5 million. Now we are about 1.8 million. Presbyterians—the other denomination which like Episcopalians have been referred to as “God’s Frozen Chosen” — have declined even more. And Methodists, Congregationalists, American Baptists, Lutherans, and even Southern Baptists are experiencing similar trends. The only growth that is reported is in The Church of the Latter Day Saints (or Mormons) and what are labeled “evangelical churches” and “community churches with no denominational affiliation.” Some also call themselves “praise churches.”

I have been curious as to what is going on for some time; and for this reason, when recently visiting my daughter’s family in Portland, Maine, I asked if I could accompany their young “extended family member,” who is a college student from Africa, to attend church with her. From my daughter’s description the church she attends, which I will call “The Point Non-Denominational Christian Church,”(not its real name) sounded like one of the non-affiliated community churches—probably evangelical– with a growing membership. Maybe this experience would provide some clues.

The two of us arrived for the early service starting at nine about 20 minutes early and found ourselves in a long line of cars trying to enter the parking lot of a regional shopping center. The line moved very quickly, however, because there were a dozen or so people with bright yellow shirts directing traffic into the huge parking area in front of the shopping center. As we got out of the car, we joined a throng of people of all ages, almost all white, eagerly headed toward the center of the shopping center where there was a huge structure with a sign, “The Point Christian Church.” Except for the sign the massive, three-story building blended in with the rest of the shopping center and could easily have been mistaken for an office building. The energy and excitement all around us reminded me of going to a high school football or basketball game. I looked around and noted the vast parking lot was already almost full, and no stores in the shopping center were even open yet.

As we approached the front door of the church, we were immediately greeted by several smiling people—mostly men wearing name tags that said “greeter” — who shook our hands vigorously, told us how glad they were to see us, and thanked us for coming. Everyone else got the same welcome. Many were embracing. (And no one was wearing a covid mask.)

Good heavens, I thought, when was the last time I got a welcome like this?

Upon entering the large lobby there was no hint that we were entering a Christian church—no crosses or pictures of Jesus or banners or anything else suggesting that this might be a church. On our right in the large lobby was a section with  tables and chairs and large sign that said “Café,” and on our left was a Starbucks lookalike with a sign that read “Coffee Shop.” Behind that was a lounge area with chairs and sofas arranged around a large fireplace. Signs directed the crowd to five options—”Christian Education and Meeting Rooms,” “Soccer field,” “Basketball Courts,” “Church Offices,” and “Auditorium.” As we joined the line headed toward the Auditorium, we snuggled between adults returning from dropping off their kids in the Christian Education area. While there were only a few people of color besides my young, African partner—after all, this was in Maine, which is 95% white—there was a wide variety of ages. I was particularly impressed by how many young people and Gen Zs there were. I was also impressed with what people were wearing. I was over dressed, wearing khaki pants and a golf shirt. The dress code for the day was mainly shorts, cut offs, jeans with fashionable holes at knee level, running or walking shoes and tee shirts. Had I not known better, I would have thought we were headed to a rock concert.

To get to the Auditorium you must pass by the regulation-size, indoor soccer field and the regulation-size basketball courts with small galleries for spectators. The One Point website also boasts of pickle ball courts and an indoor golf center. For a moment I thought I was in one of the new, over-the-top, elite college athletic facilities. However, at that time no one was using the basketball courts or artificial grass soccer field as we inched along with others headed for the Auditorium, which was a couple of floors up reachable by stairs or a bank of elevators. I wondered why they had not put in escalators.

At about five minutes before nine, we reached the top of the stairs and were finally at the Auditorium. At the entrance area we were met by more smiling greeters thanking us for coming and saying how glad they were to see us. Some were hugging and embracing. I heard voices all around me saying, “Brother, it is great to see you!” “Sister, we love you!”

Before we passed into the Auditorium, my young friend pointed to a large bowl containing tiny, plastic capsules, which she pointed out contained the grape juice and a wafer for communion. We each took one and entered. No bulletins or information about the service were available although on the wall was a list of numerous ministries and activities which were happening during the week. One that caught my eye was a “women’s prison ministry.”

The Auditorium was a vast, windowless, dim space the size of a Broadway theater, with seating on the main level and in a large balcony area. (Later I looked up the size of the space on their website and found it to have 1,600 seats.) I guessed that about 1,400 seats were already occupied as we found a couple of empty seats near front and close to the stage. There was no hint that we were in a church—no symbols, crosses, pulpit, hymnals, or anything like that.  I sat down between my young friend and next to another African, a young man in his 20s with a strong accent. I looked toward the large stage area, which was empty at that time but accommodated a large drum set on one side, a huge keyboard on the other, and five or six microphones at the front of the stage. Three large video screens were on the wall behind the stage, and two enormous screens were on each side, the size of a movie screen in a typical movie theater. Between the drum set and the keyboard was a string of Broadway-style, festive lights at the back of the stage that spelled out something like “Serving Greater Portland.”

As the clock approached nine, the chatter began to diminish, and anticipation began to build. I could feel the excitement, the kind of feeling I remember from attending a Judy Collins or Nina Simone concert in the 1960s and 70s. The dim lights went out completely as a hush came over the congregation in the pitch-black dark. For five or six seconds all conversation ceased.

I thought “Oh my goodness, what’s next?”

Then the theater lights above the stage burst on, the music started, and the congregation jumped to their feet and roared approval. Think what it is like when Notre Dame or University of Alabama football players enter a packed home stadium for a crucial game.  Ten folk rock musicians appeared on stage—five guitar players, three acoustic and two electric, all young men in their twenties or early thirties with the Maine scruffy look—long hair, beards, jeans, tee shirts and running shoes; a woman a little older playing keyboard, and a very large young man playing the drums. Three fabulous vocalists were off to the side, two women, one African American, and one guy who was dressed just like the guitar players. The musicians were not rank amateurs but polished professionals. “Oh, I said to myself. Now I understand: It’s the music.”

Their first piece was part folk and part country song with an up-tempo beat that could have come out of a Paul Simon, Garth Brooks, Taylor Swift, or a Brandi Carlisle songbook except for the Christian lyrics, which appeared on the three high-definition screens behind the band. Everyone around me was standing and singing at the top of their lungs, some jumping up and down, and most raising their arms in the air as they swayed back and forth to the beat of the music. The high-definition, massive screens on each side of the stage showed closeups of the performers and occasionally the entire performing group. I found myself standing up and swaying to the beat of the music and even raising my arms in praise. Feeling a tad awkward, I was relieved that no one could see me in the dark theater. Afterall, I am one of “God’s Frozen Chosen.” I could not help thinking that somehow, I had gotten confused and made a wrong turn, thinking I was going to a church but ending up at a country/folk rock concert. I smiled and had to admit that I was captivated by the musical performance, which over the course of just about 90 minutes included over a half dozen, very polished, extended pieces all of which had variations the same basic lyrics: Praise God, God is great, God is good, God is love, Jesus is great, you are forgiven for your sins, your life has meaning, you will live forever if you accept God’s love and believe in Jesus!”

In addition to the fabulous music, there were announcements made by the youth minister who could not have been all that many years older than a teenager himself, who listed a couple of dozen important activities that would be happening during the next week including a community picnic with inflatable slides, activities for kids, and entertainment.  Later in the service came a 30-minute sermon by another young pastor, who was probably in his mid 30s.  Since he did not introduce himself, I do not know if he was the senior pastor, but suspect not. (Five pastors, all men, are listed in their website along with 20 other staff.) Both pastors had the same scruffy, Maine look of the band performers and were dressed like most of the males in the congregation– sports shirt, jeans and running shoes. While he had prepared a written sermon, which was on an electronic tablet resting on a small podium, he glanced at it only occasionally and casually walked around the stage talking into the mic in a conversational tone as if he were in a personal conversation with each of the enthusiastic members of the congregation. His subject was the “Fourth Core Value” of the church and why it was important. The first three core values were these: “Know God, Find Freedom, and Engage Community.” “His sermon was on was “Share Your Story” –spreading the word through personal testimony and sharing God’s love, forgiveness, and reconciliation.

Other than his one long, extemporaneous prayer toward the end, there were no group prayers that I can recall, not even the Lord’s Prayer, no creeds, and no Bible readings except for a passage in the Gospel of John on which the sermon was based. At one point he showed a 10-minute clip from the movie, “The Chosen,” which was about Jesus saving a Samaritan woman at a well found in the Gospel of John, which illustrated a point he was making in his sermon. At the end of his sermon, everyone applauded, then opened their tiny container, ate the small wafer, and sipped down the grape juice.

Other highlights included two full-immersion, adult baptisms, numbers 103 and 104 for the year. The first one was accompanied by a 3 or 4-minute recorded testimony on the huge high-definition screen of the person being baptized, a serious looking woman in her 30s, wearing a black “Jesus is Lord” tee shirt. The second baptism, a woman in her late 30s or early 40s who had found Jesus while the minister was giving his sermon, happened at the tail of the sermon. The congregation exploded with applause following both baptisms.

When the band reappeared on the stage, the lights in the auditorium seating area darkened  again for the final song. Everyone jumped to their feet and joyfully sang the words on the high-def video screen about loving God, being saved and praising Jesus.

The enthusiastic greeters appeared again as people poured out of the auditorium, thanking us for being there and saying, “See you again next Sunday, brother.” The parking attendants got the cars moving out of the parking lot quickly following the service to make way for those coming to the eleven o’clock service, which my young friend told me was the more popular of the two services and often was standing room only. In all, that Sunday, there were over 3,000 people attending the two services with more than 1,000 others online. The five or six hundred children and teenagers who  were in Sunday school were not counted in these numbers.

So, the question is what to make of this. As a representative of God’s Frozen Chosen, I was and remain speechless.

Important in my thinking is that what did not happen that morning is just as important is what did happen. There was no fire and brimstone, no hollering or screaming by pastors, no hostile comments about anyone or group or about going to hell if you don’t own up to your sins. Not a hint about Trump or stolen elections—something I was carefully looking for. There was also no offering, no talk about money (except a message on the high-definition screen that you could give as you leave or online), and no hint of anything political or controversial. There was not a word about abortion. Who knows, maybe I was just lucky   that morning. The experience for me seemed genuine, sincere, and essentially theologically consistent with the fundamental message of Christianity: God loves you. You are forgiven. Your life has meaning. There is a silver lining in the suffering you have experienced. Afterall, this message over the centuries has been what has drawn people from all cultures around the globe to become Christians, who now are found in every country and number over 2.5 billion, more than any other religious faith including Islam, which is not far behind. Estimates are that in the United States, evangelicals account for over a fourth of all people who call themselves Christians.

But naturally, I could not help comparing this experience to the neighborhood Episcopal Church, which Embry and I have been attending since the late 1980s. The neo-Gothic building is beautiful, and the sung mass is solemn and at times uplifting. However, seated in the 300-seat nave on a typical service nowadays are only four or five dozen people, mostly old folks. This is due in part to covid, in part to our last rector leaving in a huff, giving us three weeks’ notice, and in part to the secularization of our society, but still the comparison is stark. We now have a terrific interim priest and have always  had a welcoming congregation; but long term if we can’t get our numbers up to 150 or so where they were pre covid, we will not be a going concern. And we are not alone. Over a third of the Episcopal churches in the Diocese of Washington are listed as at risk of surviving, and many others are struggling. This is true of all the mainline Protestant churches, and it would be true for the Catholics as well were it not for immigration.

I could not help wondering: Is there anything to be learned by traditional, mainline churches from Evangelical churches like The Point where 3,000 plus members show up on most Sundays?

When I have told friends about my experience at One Point, my comments have often been received with puzzled, skeptical looks. One person exclaimed, “Oh my God, you are not even an orthodox Christian yourself, and you, of all people, see value in an evangelical church? What is happening? Have you gone nuts?”

My reply has been mostly the same, “Different folks, different strokes. One destination, many pathways.” I should add that the pathway must be legitimate and genuine. That seemed to me to be true at One Point.

Then the next question often follows, “But those people are probably Trump supporters and election deniers, right? And you imply that they are essentially good people?”

This question illustrates the predicament we find ourselves in today. We look at people who disagree with us politically—or have different values– as fundamentally bad people. Both Democrats and Republicans are guilty of this, and there are few who dislike Trump and his hard core followers more than I do. I plead guilty as charged. The truth is that there probably were Trump supporters at One Point that morning, but what I saw and experienced was a feeling of love and acceptance and not a hint of hatefulness. We humans–all of us–have the capacity for good and evil and for loving and hating. The challenge is to try to see the good in everyone and to nurture the better angels that are in all of us while keeping the devils at bay and at the same time doing what we can to try to make this troubled planet a better place.

So much, I think, boils down to leadership. Without a Hitler there would not have been the Holocaust; without a Stalin, the gulags; without a Mao, the Cultural Revolution. We humans are basically herd animals. A few bad apples who manage to make it to the top can and often do untold damage.

 I know that a lot of evangelical churches have gone to the dark side mixing right wing, extremist politics with religion, and promoting social causes like the Anti-abortion Movement and anti-immigration. Few evangelicals would agree with my progressive politics. Yet there are also many traditional evangelicals who have stayed the course and have resisted becoming radical right-wing Republicans. “The Daily,” a podcast of the New York Times, which aired on Friday, September 23, featured a story on how there is now a huge exodus of traditional evangelical pastors, many of whom have been run out of their churches by congregations who have gone all-in for Trump, whom some call “the new Jesus.”

As for me, I say, “Praise for the praise churches!”  While they aren’t for everyone and there are those who have wandered off course, there is surely much to learn—and frankly, to admire– from what I experienced at One Point Christian Church.













So what has happened to Joe Howell’s blog posts?

To all who have been faithful blog followers: the blogger has Long Covid!

I am now two weeks into this hideous punishment with no improvement so far, but stay tuned, I will get a post out shortly (which I had written but not posted before Covid returned)  and hopefully will be able to get going again albeit at a slower pace.

And thank each and everyone of you for following the posts. I am truly grateful!