Archive for April, 2018

An Historic Place

Tuesday, April 24th, 2018

Today, I joined a group of New York historians and history buffs to witness the dedication of a plaque which will mark the first home shared by Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt after their marriage. The brownstone is at 125 East 36th Street; Murray Hill residents were active in the effort to obtain the plaque from a city historic preservation group.

The speakers at the ceremony extolled the achievements of both Roosevelts. They particularly highlighted Eleanor and Franklin’s leadership in the areas of justice and human rights.

I was glad to be publicly thanked for attending, since I represented the church where Eleanor was confirmed. Of all the illustrious former members of Incarnation, we can be most proud of the Roosevelts–as one speaker noted, perhaps the two most important Americans of the twentieth century. —J. Douglas Ousley.


Deaths of Despair

Wednesday, April 18th, 2018

I just learned a new category of population statistics: “deaths of despair.” The term refers to deaths caused by an overdose of drugs, suicides, and diabetes, among other things.

The idea is that people have given up on the idea of living a productive life. The despair behind suicides is obvious; drug overdoses are rare among well-adjusted people. Even diabetes is seen as a failure to care for oneself by keeping to a healthy weight.

Placid middle-class Christians may find these problems remote. But the statistics in this case don’t lie: there are lots of people all around us who are doing themselves harm.

The only good thing in all this is that our religion offers ways to counter dark emotions. Faith offers something to live for; hope is an antidote to self-destructiveness; and love brings light to every life. All the more reason to try to do whatever we can to reach out to those in danger of deaths of despair. —J. Douglas Ousley


High Times in Murray Hill

Wednesday, April 11th, 2018

Many of us residents of Murray Hill were startled to learn the other day about the imminent arrival of a new store on Fifth Avenue and 38th Street, across from Lord & Taylor: a medical marijuana dispensary.

There are of course other dispensaries in place around town; I happen to know a pharmacist who was hired to run one of them. Pursuant to New York State law, only non-smokable forms of marijuana will be sold–and only to purchasers bearing a prescription.

That said, this is definitely an event in the “who would have imagined?” category.

As far as I know, the Episcopal Church doesn’t have guidelines about the consumption of marijuana for medical or recreational purposes. We do have rules about alcohol; our parish, for example, doesn’t advertise serving drinks, and we always have non-alcoholic alternatives prominently displayed when we do. (As it happens, as part of our outreach, Incarnation hosts one AA group and four Narcotics Anonymous groups each week.)

I don’t have particularly strong feelings about the subject. I know people with chronic pain who are helped by the drug; yet I am leery of providing the temptation to drive under the influence.

In any case, it’s a new world! —J. Douglas Ousley


Superstar 2018

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2018

Easter Sunday night saw a live performance on television of one of first rock operas, Jesus Christ Superstar; this is an early work by the famous composer, Andrew Lloyd Webber (who is a great supporter of the Church of England, by the way.)

Any occasion when the life of Jesus is addressed by pop culture is noteworthy. This production with singer John Legend and other notables was lavish and moving.

NBC promoted the performance for weeks and Legend appeared on various talk shows. It was interesting that in all the publicity, little was said about the subject of the opera, Jesus Christ.

Fortunately, in this case, the story of Jesus speaks for itself. I especially liked the ending when, after the signature song was brilliantly performed, the crucified Christ ascends into a dazzling light. Just perfect for Easter. —J. Douglas Ousley