Uncle Mayhem versus The Boy

When I saw that Kiddo#1 had gotten a package from Uncle Mayhem, I was confused. I’d spoken to him only a week earlier and he hadn’t mentioned an impending package. And trust me, I’m not calling him Uncle Mayhem without good cause.

Uncle Mayhem, in case he’s reading this, is probably laughing his head off at his moniker. He’s from the Italian side of my family, and Uncle Mayhem loves to start a good debate at family gatherings. Given that we’re Italians, it’s a fight. And usually it’s about something none of us really cares about, but we’ll all get strident and argue and it’s great fun for Uncle Mayhem. I’ve seen him moving from group to group at these gatherings trying to get a rise out of someone. He went to my Patient Husband, for example, and tried to start a PC versus Mac debate. It didn’t work. Last time, he tried to get me into an argument about whether Joseph actually married Mary, because it doesn’t say so explicitly in the Bible.

Uncle Mayhem also has a heart of gold, but he doesn’t want you to know that, so I’ll leave that out of the story. He has in the past sent me slides and photos of my family from fifty years ago, which I very much appreciated.

Kiddo#1 got home, slit open the box, and in it he found thirty baseball cards (twenty loose, some from as early as 1968, and one unopened ten-pack.)  Here is the letter which accompanied them:

Dear Kiddo#1,

I found out from your grandmother that you are a “Boston” fan. And since I am a YANKEE fan I knew I had some Red Sox baseball cards to give away.

I was quite upset for a while but finally realized that in God’s MASTER PLAN there will be a few lost souls that are going to be Red Sox fans. So that is when I thought of sending you my Red Sox baseball cards.

Now if you do not want them, I can understand since I do not want them either.

But if you are a true Boston fan and keep them, then maybe you will want the rest of the Red Sox baseball cards I have.

Let me know one way or the other. Hope everyone is well.

Uncle Mayhem

By the time we got to the end of this, Kiddo#1 and I were crying with laughter. Kiddo#1 wrote him a very nice thank you note that night and said yes, he would gladly rehome any baseball cards that Uncle Mayhem didn’t want. But in my heart, I wish he’d sent this:

Dear Uncle Mayhem,

My condolences. I was terribly grieved to read about your choice of fandoms. You don’t have to do that just because you live near New York, you know. I am glad to rescue your unloved baseball cards and give them a home where they would be appreciated for the treasures they are. If you cannot bear true enlightenment, of course I will take the rest of them, but I would rather you study them to mend the errors of your misguided heart. I will pray for you every day and light a candle before my picture of Ted Williams.


Because, you see, I too can create mayhem.


  1. Jason Block

    Uncle Mayhem is a man after my own heart. I bleed the pinstripes(just like UM) and I think that was a very generous(and valuable) gesture.

    But I like your response just as much. 😛

    PS I was in Boston about a year or ago and had the privilege of walking right near Fenway. Although I am a Yankee fan, I appreciated the history of walking outside Fenway.

  2. illya

    Uncle Mayhem really did a nice thing. And it is a joy for older folks to give some joy to the younger generation

  3. Jenni

    Thanks for the laughs Philangelus and Uncle Mayhem!

  4. Uncle Mayham

    Never leave anything unanswered especially when it has to do with a Red Sox fan who is in great need of some baseball education. I will give you all the information you will need about being a Red Sox fan.
    I will delve into their rich historic background hoping you will understand why it is, there are so few Red Sox fans. I know it is not your fault. You need to speak to God about His master plan as I mentioned in my first letter. After all, He is a merciful God. And can you just imangine all the joy you would have in your life time, if you were allowed to become a YANKEE fan ? ? ?

    And, about Joseph and Mary, God bless them. I really can not find anything about their wedding. Shouldn’t a blessed event such as the marriage of the son of God’s parent be a little exploitive in the Bible ?
    But who cares anyway………they did a good job in raising him and that’s what’s important.

    You can tell kiddo#1 that I will be sending another package soon containing BBCs of his beloved Red Sox

    L O V E >>>>>>>>>> Uncle Mayhem

  5. philangelus

    When Mary was “betrothed” to Joseph, it means the contract between them was signed. At that point, they were considered legally a couple, and it would have taken a divorce decree to dissolve the union. To me, that’s enough clarity that they got married. Joseph took her into his home. The important weddings were the one at Cana and the Bride’s at the end of Revelation.

    And hey, I’m with you on the Red Sox thing! I’d have educated him in the ways of the Yankee except that his peers got to him first. I was a Yankee fan too in my youth, before I got soured on all baseball. 🙂

    Welcome to the weblog!

  6. Kiddo#1

    Dear Uncle Mayhem,

    I have begged for mercy, and I do not think Ted Williams granted it. You must also remember that a cursed team cannot world series, allowing the Yankees to gain much ground on Boston. Red Sox fans know a far greater joy of lucky numbers (like #6) and much more choices for numbers. Remember, the curse was reversed, so now the Yankees will not be able to win a world series until 2090.

    love, Kiddo #1
    ps before you send me the cards, you should use them to beg for mercy!

  7. Uncle Mayham

    Philangelus – Isn’t betrothed an engagement ? And an engagement does not make a marriage. The sacrament of marriage makes a marriage and leaves nothing to the imagination. I say that such an important union at such a questionable time would be proclaimed for everyone to know. How does that line go ……………..
    So it is written – So it is done or something like that….

    Uncle Mayhem

  8. philangelus

    Uncle Mayhem:

    No, a betrothal at that time was the arrangement of the marriage contract and the exchange of the bride price. You’re viewing marriage as a sacrament, but at the time, it was understood as a contract.

    The actual wedding would mark the beginning of the couple’s life together, but the signing of the contract set out the terms and the conditions. It’s like the difference between closing on your real estate deal and moving into the house. Betrothal was the “closing” and the wedding would be the “moving in.”

    Because it would be so highly unusual if the wedding hadn’t taken place (it would be a breach of contract) then you can assume that because it wasn’t mentioned, it went through. Besides, Joseph took her into his home. That’s enough information for us.

    The Bible doesn’t say Mary was *born* either, but we assume it happened. The Bible doesn’t say Jesus had teeth and a spinal column, but we assume he did. 🙂

  9. Uncle Mayham

    Philangelus – Oct 27, 2008


    Marriage was and is, a SACRAMENT to GOD. Since you can assume so much, so can I. If a marriage did take place GOD would want it proclaimed through out the land. At least HE would see to it, that it was mentioned in the Bible. His only Son . . . . Married . . . . . and not mentioned in the Bible…. I don’t think so. And as far as Joseph
    taking Mary into his home . . . . So
    That is not enough information for us. The Bible does not mention normal things, like teeth and spinal columns. It doesn’t even mention if spinal columns were curved or teeth were rotten. But that is for another day.

    I know that your assumption remark was meant to be funny, but the mention of the wedding of Joseph and Mary was not meant to be funny. I think it is a very important part of the Catholic religion and it is missing from the Bible.

    And finally………if someone says they have a chair hand made by either Joseph or Jesus, how can we verify this ? And how much would it be worth ?

    Uncle Mayham

  10. ivyreisner

    Oh, I like you Uncle Mayhem. So if I understand your case correctly, you would argue that Joseph and Mary were not married? I would argue that any claim for Jesus being messiah is in itself a confirmation that Joseph and Mary had to have married. It is clearly stated that the messiah is of David’s line, which Mary certainly was not. So if he’d lost the tie to Joseph, he’d have also lost all claims to being of Davidic descent and therefore would have been disqualified.

    Jane, there is a name for that in writing, where you state something indirectly, by showing its consequences (like if someone is trying to fix a fuse box and rather than say “he fixed it” you show the lights turning on) and for the life of me I can’t recall what it is. Do you remember?

  11. Uncle Mayham

    ivyreisner – Oct 28, 2008

    Oh, I like you as much. And, if I understand your case correctly, you would argue that Joseph and Mary are married, by your assumptions.
    ( taken to be true without proof )

    Your example was not very good. “the lights turning on” does not mean “he fixed it”. All it means is that the lights are working now. He could have very well fixed the problem or he could have asked a friend to fix it or he could have called an electrician, etc., etc., etc..
    ASSUMPTIONS . . . . . . .

    Comming from a background of programming almost all of my adult life, one thing we all learned is that you never asume anything. NEVER.

    By the way, isn’t ‘GOD the Father’ the Father of Jesus ? ? ?

    What does that do to “David’s line” ? ? ?

    And, when you say “lost the tie to Joseph”, we are speaking about the “BLOOD LINE” aren’t we ? ? ?

    Uncle Mayhem

  12. ivyreisner

    Taken to be true with indirect evidence.

    My example was only intended to ask the term, which I still don’t recall.

    The sentence, “Joe fiddled with the fuse box and the lights turned on.” implies, but does not state, that he solved the problem.

    As to your final argument, I concede. You’re right. We cannot tie Jesus to Joseph’s bloodline, meaning exactly what you imply about “David’s line”.

  13. ivyreisner

    BTW, the last was meant to be read as tongue in cheek. I don’t know if it comes off that way.

  14. ivyreisner

    Oh, Uncle Mayhem, I have written a haiku in your honor. I hope you like it.

    Dear Uncle Mayhem,
    A delightful man to meet,
    Fellow Yankees fan.

  15. philangelus

    My very dear Uncle Mayhem, if Jesus isn’t of David’s line, then he can’t be the shoot that comes from the stump of Jesse. In Judaism, in order to be a valid kingship, the king needs to be of Davidic descent. The Messiah is predicted to be of David’s line, and if he’s not of David’s line, then Jesus is not the Messiah.

    In which case it doesn’t matter whether Mary and Joseph were married, does it? Then we can all go home, and I can study to convert to Judaism.

    Joseph presented Jesus in the Temple, and again, wouldn’t have done so had he not been married to Jesus’s mother and accepted Jesus as his earthly son.

    THere is a technical term for not showing something directly. I believe it’s inductive rather than deductive. If I write, “he turned the key and the car started,” you as a reader can assume that the key turned on the car’s engine rather than he turned the key and at that same moment in time, a magician two continents away decided to magically start a car for kicks and grins.

    UncleMayhem, if there’s a narration of Mary and Joseph’s wedding, it would be in the Protoevangelium of James. I’ve never read that, but I’ve seen segments and that’s where you’d find it.

    The fact is, we are working without SO MUCH in the Gospels, and I cannot see that whether Joseph and Mary ratified their covenantal marriage contract (other than him taking her into his home, which is when that normally would have happened) impacts anything whatsoever. It shouldn’t. There’s no reason for it to. If they were going to add anything, by gosh, I’d have liked a physical description of Jesus! Agh.

    If someone claims to have a chair made by Jesus, he’s a liar. To disprove the claim, first you’d want to carbon date the wood. You’d want to compare it to chairs made in that timeperiod to make sure it was made with period tools and in a style of that period. You’d want to make sure it was a kind of wood that actually grows in the Holy Land.

    And beyond that, I don’t think anyone could narrow it down to which carpenter made it. I doubt Jesus or Joseph would have signed their work. I guess you could look for a stamp saying “Made In Nazareth” but otherwise, nah.

  16. Cricket

    Joseph taught Jesus his trade, and presented him at temple. Would he have done this for a step-son he was stuck with? Hard to say.

    How did the religious law treat adoptions back then? Would he still be considered of the line of David? These days there is no legal difference between an adopted and genetic child, once all the forms have been filled out. (Although I suspect royal succession might differ, if it displaces another heir.)

    Separately, if religion is passed through the mother, what if a member of the line of David marries a non-Jew? Is the son still of the line?

  17. philangelus

    Adoption made someone a full-blooded son. Witness when God says to Abraham that he’ll give him a son, and Abraham says, “Yeah, my adopted son Eliezar,” and God says, “No, dude, a son with Sarah.”

    A covenant agreement makes a person family to another person.

    Can’t answer about religion being passed through the mother. That’s something that I don’t quite “get” because I’m so used to understanding it as one-on-one rather than a heritage. 🙁

  18. ivyreisner

    It’s not so much religion that’s passed mother to child but membership in the covenant community. Recall you’re dealing with a full-on orthopraxy at this time. In early Judaism, it’s the community the interacts with G-d as a suzerain. If you’re born on US soil, you’re an American. Doesn’t matter if you like the country or the president, you just are. Christianity was the first to enlighten us to a more individual, personal relationship.

    Eliazer was Abraham’s steward and heir, not his adopted child. That was simply an issue of inheriting property. Genesis 15.

  19. Cricket

    I didn’t realize the community thing. I thought it was because, since Mom ran the home and cooked and cleaned, she could more easily keep the Kosher rules and teach the kids, so long as Dad doesn’t actively object. It’s harder for Dad to keep a Kosher home if Mom doesn’t actively help.

  20. ivyreisner

    I don’t think a covenant bond is supposed to imply family. The Covenant of the League of Nations doesn’t bind all the citizens of the member countries as one super-huge family.

  21. philangelus

    League of Nations isn’t a Biblical Covenant.

    I’m getting that from Scott Hahn, btw.

  22. ivyreisner

    I’m not sure where that might come from, though.

    In Joshua 24:25, Joshua makes a covenant with the people, but doesn’t adopt them all. I can’t find a passage where forming a covenant, a treaty, forms a family.

    I definitely need to read Scott Hahn. I have Reasons to Believe, but it’s been sitting on my Kindle untouched.

  23. philangelus

    Ah, but it DOES because Judaism is based on the family relationship of everyone being a son of Abraham. Covenantal bonding is an exchange of persons, whereas contractual language is an exchange of services.

    The Scott Hahn book with the most about covenants is “Swear To God.” I can look in Reasons To Believe and see if the covenant stuff is there too.

  24. ivyreisner

    The Jewish Encyclopedia defines “covenant” as

    An agreement between two contracting parties, originally sealed with blood; a bond, or a law; a permanent religious dispensation.


    The Catholic Dictionary has a long definition for “Covenant, Biblical”, but the line “Many years later Jeremiah prophesied that a new covenant would be offered.” is telling. If it’s a family bond, then how could it be a new family? Like marrying your husband again in a different way? If it’s a treaty, then the terms of the agreement simply change.


    I think what he might be referring to is the idea that a convert would be a- part of the covenant community AND b- a son or daughter of Abraham. These are two independent conditions joined only in this special case. People/groups/nations can form covenants with each other without forming a family unit.

    Look at the two covenants with Noah. One is before the flood and one is after.

    Genesis 6:18 But with thee will I establish my covenant; and thou shalt come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons’ wives with thee

    Genesis 9:11 And I will establish my covenant with you, neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth.

    Rashi’s commentary on the first covenant with Noah includes:

    And I will set up My covenant with you A covenant was necessary for the fruits, so that they should not rot and become putrid, and so that the wicked of the generation should not kill him. — [from Gen. Rabbah 31:12]

    So it seems more an agreement, or a promise. If it were an adoption, one would have sufficed.

    I’ll try to get the Swear book from the library. I’m curious of the context in which he was speaking.