Looking Back


Yearend is always a time for reflection.

Looking back, I find that I’ve done 85 posts since beginning this blog back in March (this makes 86). That’s a lot of verbiage. No doubt some would say that most of it was excess verbiage. But then, I’ve always been opinionated and long-winded.

Which pretty much proves I was born to blog.

Kassel's Blog LogoIt’s been good to see readership growing over these months — as indicated both by the analytics of my blog host, WordPress, and the numbers of “Friends” and “Likes” on my related Facebook pages. But this, of course, means that latecomers to the blog likely haven’t seen many of my earlier offerings.

So I thought I might suggest a few back posts for year-end review. The criteria for my selections are as variable as my usual choices of subjects on which to rant. Some picks deal with topics (or offer observations) that are still relevant. Some are particularly revealing of my viewpoint (for what that’s worth). And some I think are just kind of fun to read — at least they were fun to write.

1. My first pick would be the extended essay I posted as a prelude to my blog launch, titled “Why Was Jesus Crucified?” Based on research for the historical novel my literary agent is currently hustling to publishers (and to which I’ve alluded occasionally), it goes beyond the traditional explanation, “He died for our sins,” to explore the political background of Christ’s execution. (Filed under Featured Articles)

Larry Arnn2. A trio of commentaries that touch on the delicate and ever-present subject of race would be next. The first is a piece titled “The Philadelphia Story,” posted on March 25, that dealt with objections to an exposé on race relations in my hometown of Philadelphia. Second is my defense of Hillsdale College President Larry Arnn who was pilloried for a comment taken out of context and grossly distorted. Posted on August 1, it bore the title, “Hypocrisy in Black & White.” Then there’s a follow-up, “The Elephant in the Room,” posted on August 3. I have hoped these articles might contribute to that great dialogue on race we’re always told is necessary but we never seem to have. (Race & Culture)

3. A homily in which my pastor used the image of a Tiffany lamp as a metaphor for drawing attention to oneself prompted thoughts on how people who speak to the public — especially those of us involved in religious communication — must come to terms with our own egos. It appeared on April 24 slugged, “Letting Your Light Shine.” Afterward, I asked a number of Christian communicators for their thoughts on the problem, receiving this heartfelt response from Catholic vocalist Kitty Cleveland…

“I think the one and only antidote to an inflated ego for anyone in any field — but especially one where people are telling you how wonderful you are — is a deep prayer life. Knowing the person of Jesus and our status as his beloved creatures inevitably leads to humility, which is the truth that we can do nothing apart from him. Of myself, I am just misery and dust! But I am beloved dust.”

(Faith & Religion)

Kathy4. May saw two posts about people important in my personal life. The seventh of that month brought “Kathy,” a rumination on how my wife and her ceaselessly productive nature always put me in mind of the famous “Woman of Valor” passage from Proverbs 3. “Deacon Tom Loewe,” Loewea report on the ordination of my dear friend and colleague to the permanent deaconate, appeared on the 20th of that month. (Memories)

5. In between those two items, on May 14, I delved back into college days, recounting how an economics instructor whose name I can’t even recall gave me a startling insight into “The Nature of Money.” I applied his words to the moral conflict inherent in Obamacare, but it has numerous other implications as well. (Ideology & Politics)

6. Interestingly, my fifth most-read post was one I ran on May 26 for Memorial Day, “Once to Every Man and Nation,” a brief reflection on James Russell Lowell’s famous hymn lyric of that title. I don’t know why the piece was so popular; Lowell’s words seem to have struck a chord — no pun intended — well, maybe just a little one. (Moral Choices & Actions).

7. On June 11, after former security contractor Edward Snowden had blitzed the world with thousands of leaked NSA documents, I addressed a great “Dilemma” of our time: How do we balance privacy and security in the age of terrorism?

“Our constitutional protections have been of inestimable value in making us the nation we are with the set of expectations we all have about individual rights and freedoms,” I wrote. “But there are bad guys about, trying to do us great harm. And they don’t give a hoot for our punctilious concern about civil liberties….

“The one thing I’ve learned is that it’s not a matter of which party or which president or which set of policies you trust to either insure the nation’s safety or protect our freedoms. The intrusions into our privacy which we live with under Barack Obama were set in motion under George Bush. But then, we always come back to the fact that there hasn’t been another 9/11 under either administration.

“So I’m stumped.”

I still am — even after a follow-up piece on June 13 — and the question remains unanswered. (Moral Choices & Actions)

8. In two July posts I considered the difference between programs that serve the poor (by easing the impact of poverty) and helping the poor (by aiding them in moving out of poverty) — “Serving vs. Helping,” July 9 and 14.

“We’ve created a vast multiplicity of programs,” I wrote, “that provide all kinds of services, requiring gigantic administrative agencies that generate huge costs, perpetuate and extend themselves, and spur the creation of related supporting bureaucracies.

“Yet large numbers of people — many of whom have received government services over the course of decades (and whole families over generations) — remain poor, with scant prospect of altering their economic condition….

“The next time somebody sings the glories of a government program, try to distinguish whether its purpose is to serve or to help. Even more to the point, ask if it works.”

(Moral Choices & Actions)

Greatest Hits Album9. My post of August 25 was given over to nostalgia for one of the greatest female pop vocalists of all time, Linda Ronstadt, after it was announced that Parkinson’s Disease had made her “A Silenced Voice.”

“While any singer must adapt to shifting musical tastes in order to keep a career going, Ronstadt had them all beat when it came to versatility,” I wrote.

“For my money, no musical niche better suited her emotive presentation than the torch song. If you want to have your heart broken, listen to her sing Gary White’s “Long, Long Time.”


10. The saddest of my 85 posts was an obituary I wrote for “Ginni,” a dear friend from high school days who died from cancer in April. It was quite short, and since she’s in my mind once more as 2013 comes to a close, I offer it again here…

The people who remain dearest in our memories of youth are those who shared the milestones of our lives — especially the moments of our youthful triumphs or, even more so, of our greatest youthful foolishness. Ginni was on hand for many of mine, in both categories.

GinniShe was a founding member of my high school circle of friends, that group of theater nerds who worked on the stage crew building scenery for productions of “Bye Bye Birdie,” “Arsenic and Old Lace,” and other theatrical chestnuts that were staples of student dramatics back in the 1960s. Ginni was someone to be counted on for set building on Saturday mornings, a hard worker who didn’t spare her slight, girlish frame the labors of hauling lumber or her feathery blonde hair the spatters of casein off muslin flats.  And she was as quick to put together a tray of sandwiches for one of the many impromptu Friday night parties or summertime picnics around which teenage social life revolved for my friends and me.

She was bright, in terms of both her intelligence and her outlook. She was eager for life’s experiences. And she was cute as a button.

Ginni went on to get a nursing degree, marry, move to California, and become a mother. We lost touch for more than four decades, until Facebook made possible the renewing of old friendships. Over the past two years we have corresponded. Never in our email exchanges did she mention the cancer from which she died last week. She leaves her husband, Paul, a daughter, Amy, a son-in-law, two grandsons, and two sisters.

To me she leaves a cherished memory of the charming girl and dear friend who will always live in the grainy and poorly exposed photographs of my personal reverie.

Rest in peace, Virginia Clausen Claffey.


I hope you’ve read my more recent posts. I hope you’ve enjoyed my ramblings. And I hope I can count on your continued readership in 2014.

Dare I also hope you’ll tell your friends about that crazy guy in the next pew?

Have a happy, prosperous and blessed New Year.


Kassel's Blog Logo

 “Why Was Jesus Crucified?”

“The Philadelphia Story”

“Hypocrisy in Black & White”

“The Elephant in the Room”

“Letting Your Light Shine”


“Deacon Tom Loewe”

“The Nature of Money”

“Once to Every Man and Nation”


“Dilemma — Part II”

“Serving vs. Helping”

“Serving vs. Helping — Part II”

“A Silenced Voice” 




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