Dedicated to Buddy and My Childhood Friends – Great People and Great Friends

He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides in him.  (Emphasis added.)

Jn 3:36

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Imagine if your life actually comes down to belief … and to performance based on belief, that it comes down to excellence in what you do, to virtue, and effort and sacrifice.

Yes, imagine life is a zero-sum game.  That if you fail to excel, fail to exert yourself – to try your very best to do things right, learn from mistakes, take responsibility for miscues, live honorably, befriend others, sacrifice when necessary, put others first, lead and encourage, learn your craft and do it well … imagine what eternity might be for you, if you fail to live as you optimally can. Imagine how unsatisfying your end days might be if you failed to enter the fray and give it what you had.

Imagine as a professed Christian what your burden may be if having professed belief in Christ as the Son of God you lived as it that was not so … as if your actions say “these are only words, but I do my own thing.”

U.S. Navy Seal Lief Babib writes in Extreme Leadership (a book he wrote with fellow Seal officer Jocko Willink) that “Seal training (and really, throughout a Seal’s career) very evolution was a competition – a race, a fight, a contest.”

You know I have often said that life in poverty, in public housing, with a Mom and no Dad or siblings, among tough hardcore people on the edge of survival was a state of combat – day after day with no margin of error.  I was, by the way, surrounded by friends in the same situation and they have been among the best people, strongest people and best friends I have had in my life … Brothers and Sisters to me, my family to this day.

Yes, necessity creates need for toughness and determination; and, whether people were consciously connected to this passage in the Gospel of John or not, these people lived a de facto zero sum game – gave life their very best, reached out to support and love one another, showed the courage to face life, accept its hardships and challenges and keep living as honorably as they could.

Now that is “seeing life” and experiencing the gift of life.  I contend that living life as it presents is in its very nature an act of faith, a life of courage. 

My friends are not snowflakes, weepers, cry-babies.  They do not look for government to do for them.  They do not seek handouts, make excuses, complain and whine.

They live and they laugh.  They raise good kids. Work hard.  Help others. Get up when they are knocked down. Learn from life, grow in it  – get wiser, gain understanding – excel as human beings.

They don’t need “selfies” to know who they are or remember where they have been. Celebrities hold no sway for them, but good people do.

They don’t count themselves “special.”  They are the polar opposite of Johnny Depp and Madonna.  They don’t need an audience and long ago realized entertainers are as jugglers – and jugglers come and go … while the best of us sustain to the end.

Shalom.

 

 

… “political correctness” is one of the most dangerous intellectual afflictions ever to attack mankind … PC has enormous appeal to the semi-educated … But it also appeals to pseudo-intellectuals …

Paul Johnson, in Forbes (April 19, 2016)

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Noted British historian Paul Johnson takes out after “political correctness” in a way that I have not seen anyone do here in the U.S.  It seems, unlike Johnson, our public voices are fearful that some claimants to PC nonsense might take an exception. So much for the state of courage, intellect and common sense here and now.

Johnson reminds us that “any empty-headed student” can “claim some hurt” and the “dons and professors” will “wave the white feather” and extinguish free speech and public debate.  So much for the “leadership” and courage of trembling elders occupying university administrations.

Of course PC doesn’t stop at the campus edge, but rather gets repeated and applied to the populace by ready bureaucrats, regulators, school boards and legislators.

Johnson smartly sees that Donald Trump’s “vulgar, abusive, nasty, rude, boorish, and outrageous” presentation is precisely what is needed to confront PC.  As Johnson notes: America has had a long history of “vigorous, outspoken, raw and raucous” political speech and PC thinking does squelch that freedom to our great detriment.

Yes, Johnson sees Trump as a sharp contrast to the spineless and pusillanimous American political figures of the last decade (and, by implication, in the West with nations conceding their freedom to super-legislative, international bodies of PC focused and inept softies).

And herein is Johnson’s most critical observation – in Brexit and the Trump election we are seeing an expression of individual freedom and a rejection of the Nanny State, its PC idiocy and special pleading proponents whose only interest is tilting public life and benefit to them … and the devil with individual freedom … For them “equality” and “tolerance” are but PC clubs to beat the life out of liberty.  Think about it, is it any wonder that religion is the enemy of the PC crowd? Or why they hold this nation worthless?

I have said to many who object to Mr. Trump this: if you only look at Trump you are missing the movie … the larger story is about individual freedom and the authority of the nation state that is constrained by a free people and an astute Constitution in a federalist representative government of autonomous states.

Living faith in culture requires attention to the nature of culture and its expression in politics.  PC places freedom beyond reach and pulls totalitarian impulses to the fore.

Shalom.

News – It seems that Senator Bernie Sanders and his wife Jane have hired legal representation because of an investigation into Mrs. Sanders securing a large bank loan for the college of which she was President shortly before it closed its doors and may have failed to accurately report the college’s financial state in the loan application.  Socialism Venezuela style?

 

… the Light has come into the world, and men have chosen darkness rather than Light, for their deeds were evil.  For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.  But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought by God. (Emphasis added.)

Jn 3: 19, 20, 21

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I have been focusing on the Gospel of John and the teachings that Jesus brings us in it.  I do so for a particular reason and it is this: we in the United States, especially among elites – those of privilege … including the media and entertainment class, lawyers and the judiciary, and university teachers and administrators, have lost contact with God, or have rejected God, religious narrative and Christ and this underlies all of our problems and our deteriorating public discourse and the reduced quality of those serving in public life.

Spirlaw is a blog about faith and culture.  About the intersection between faith and the culture in which we live.  There is no moral guide without faith and religious narrative.

The loss of recognition of faith’s invaluable importance to a healthy culture is crippling, destabilizing.  In its absence all sorts of ideas and wants are pushed forward without a glimmer of depth or understanding.  The subsequent foolishness is and can be both costly and utterly destructive.  We seem to have adequately demonstrated this quite clearly in the last five to six decades.

We are unhealthy, divided, crude and increasingly ignorant and wasteful.

Things have got to change.  We must return to the source of our wisdom and humanity – to faith – knowledge of it and life lived in it.

Look at the above words.  Read them.  Pause to think about them.

Do you see evil in this culture?  Among the most vocal advocates?  Or do you see good? Light?  Is faith banished or welcome?  Is God dismissed or welcome? Is Light manifest?

Or does one hear actors and celebrities, elected officials even – talking hatefully and doing so without hesitation?  Is the media truthful or are they not?

Those who are not truthful are not of the Light.  They destroy and there is no reason to give them ear.

Shalom.

Common Mistake – I recently watched an interesting report on the BBC about suicide among homosexuals.  The claim was made that it is a serious problem and that its cause is the denial of equality.

The common mistake?  Not all matters and forms of human behavior depend on “equality.”

There is far more to a healthy life than “equality.”  It is not the essence of human existence.

Indeed “equality” is invoked by political advocates without any evidence that they have studied the concept.  They use “equality” in an undifferentiated way.   Big mistake.  A mistake of ignorance.

The result in this case is this: neither “equality” nor suicide are understood.

Our ignorance grows seemingly in direct proportion to the growth of educational institutions and budget increases in education.

… God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.  He who believes in Him is not judgedhe who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.  (Emphasis added.)

Jn 3: 17, 18

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Jesus appears not to judge us, but to save us through him – through his teachings, his sacrifice.  So if we believe, we are not judged – indeed, the judgement of others does not rule us in this life.  You need not, as a consequence, be so anxious about what others say or meeting a standard imposed on you – especially by those who do not believe.

Of course, those who do not believe are already judged.  Ironically, they are judged by their failure to believe.  Yes, non-Believers condemn themselves, pass judgement on themselves.

Think about the practical application of this salient truth today.

If you believe and live your beliefs you cannot be labeled “a bigot,” “homophobe,” “white supremacist,” “fascist,” “deplorable,” irredeemable,” etc., by those who do not believe.

Indeed, one could say that those who do not believe reveal themselves by their judgmentalism – the ease with which they condemn others, dismiss others, discount and devalue others.

Sadly, it is the case today that the Left labels people adversely, passes judgement on them, devalues them … thereby showing that they do not believe in the name of the Son of God.

Today the Left divides and in this has created a crisis of sorts – put one against another … Such is the way of Unbelievers.

Division is not possible when one believes.  Division is not necessary when one believes. There is no place for division when one believes.

The cultural crisis today in a fundamental way is a clash between Belief and Unbelief.  It is a clash between those obedient to, and humbled by, God and those, godless ones, who in their unbelief, are full pride and ego, seeking always to judge and condemn – in favor of their high opinion of themselves.  Best to believe, not judge.

Shalom.

Postscript – The Democrats keep losing.  Why?  Two-thirds of them play identity politics – “the me vs. you” game.  They divide, keep people agitated and angry, demanding and annoying.  Hating your neighbors doesn’t win elections and it is exhausting.  The guys you hate actually vote against you.  Imagine that!!!

The other third wants America to become a socialist utopia and places like Cuba and Venezuela, and gulag Russia just don’t appeal to people.  Why trade a big screen TV, AC, paid vacation, a nice car for chaos, a bad diet, lower life expectancy, no economic future and an authoritarian government?  Only Ivy League English Professors choose that option – but there are not enough of them to fill a walk-in closet.   

Please Note

My computer is being serviced and I will most likely not post tomorrow, Wednesday, June 21 or the following day, June 22.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God … In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men.

Jn 1: 1, 4

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There is great disorder in the nation.  We have lost our way, parted from God.

The only way back I know as a Christian is through Christ – who was with God, was God and in whom life and Light resides.

Look about you.  Imagine for a moment that the public discourse was informed by God, reflected God.  Would that discourse not give life and Light to men.

In its place, we have division – hatred, murder, deceit, disunity, public profanity, broken families, growing idleness and dependency, addiction, drug abuse, racism, abortion, fatherless boys and children … corruption … and the list goes on.

Today in the U.S. Congress Members sit rather than salute to flag – they think, however, nothing of enjoying the benefits of this land and the privileges of being Members of Congress.

I ask you: Is it not the responsibility of the Christian to witness their faith – to speak out and do so calmly and in the spirit of love of others and of God?

Are we not so obligated?

Shalom.

The Lord God planted a garden toward the East, in Eden … Out of the ground the Lord God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Gen 2: 8, 9

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… the tree of life …

We often miss this vital point in the story of Adam and Eve and their exile from Eden that results when they eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

At Mass yesterday, Fr. Tucker pointed this out.  It is, frankly, a profound observation with extraordinary significance.

Yes, we were exiled for our disobedience.  Left to live far from the tree of life …. until 

Yes, until Christ was crucified – the Cross Our Tree of Life.  Such a wonderful and simple Truth from Fr. Tucker.

Think about this.  You have been brought back to Eden.  It’s enough to make a person obedient, thankful, faithful.

Beware of those who attack faith, the Church, religion and Believers – they have little understanding and are far from Truth and Life.

Shalom.

Happy Father’s Day

Fatherhood is at the core of the universe, at the center of being and its mystery.  Shame on those who ignore their children for the damage done and the opportunity lost.

Grandpa Bobby Bob

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So it is Father’s Day.  You know I looked for a quote that might sum up fatherhood.  Didn’t find one, and doubt that I could.  Fatherhood is larger than all the words known to us.

Fatherhood has a mystical quality to it.  One is father in ways that are more than merely intellectual.  No, fatherhood resides and operates in the realm of mystery.  Fatherhood introduces a man to supernatural reality.  When one attends to his children – God is visible, eternity exists and everlasting love takes its form.  Fatherhood stretches into time, from here to time immortal.

Fatherhood transforms.  I give you proof.

Acquiring the experience of another person is one of the hardest things one might do, love notwithstanding.  Yet, I have seen my son come to fully understand me when he himself became a father to two beautiful children (one a toddler, one an infant – a boy and a girl – a prince and a princess, if you don’t mind).

Try as I might have to convey to him how important he was to me – when he became a father he understood what I tried to impart as to his importance to me.  Now he “gets it.” Now, I get that unexpected call from him to ask: “Dad, are you okay?  Just called to see how you are.”  And I get, “Love you, Dad.” Yes, love unites us in ways that make son and father best friends forever, inseparable, indivisible.

I tell my friends, I have seen my son transformed by becoming a father, and a very good Dad at that: engaged, loving, calm, instructive, helpful, gentle, thoughtful, playful, guiding, a giant “best friend” to two Little People … a giant with a soft voice and an endless supply of hugs and kisses.

His Ph.D. notwithstanding, I tell him and his wife that what they do as parents is the most important thing they will ever do.  I see in his two Cupcakes – contentment, ease, comfort, confidence in their young explorations – wonders in their eyes and smiles on their faces, love and joy in their every breath.

My son’s fatherhood anoints me Grandpa Bobby Bob (as I am so named by Grandson Jack, not yet three).  Life has no greater honor for a man than to be Dad and then Grandpa.

Fatherhood transforms.  It is in the mystery of life – more than sociological designation or a name on a birth certificate, more than a formality … it is a blessing bestowed on us by design, an opportunity of a lifetime, a source of meaning now and forever.

Happy Father’s Day!

If we wish to see a strong and good society – let all men who have children be first and foremost: good and responsible fathers.  Life’s problems are fewer to those who have been well-fathered.  Men, do your sacred job – your children and this nation depend on it.

Shalom.

 

 

On the altar in my hermitage in France are images of Buddha and Jesus, and every time I light incense, I touch both of them as my spiritual ancestors … When you touch someone who authentically represents a tradition, you not only touch his or her tradition, you also touch your own. This quality is essential to dialogue.

Thich Nhat Hanh, in Living Buddha, Living Christ

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Tradition is profoundly important.  It is, as Thich says, essential to dialogue. Without tradition one cannot easily acquire the experience of another for traditions convey human experience, reality discovered over centuries, truth as to human beings and the supernatural.

In America, today, we have little constructive or civic dialogue between the Left and the rest of us.  Rather, we hear very harsh, hostile and angry language from the Left.  Their word and conduct decry this fact: those at war with others are at war with themselves.

War, you say.  Yes.

The Left feels betrayed.  They lost power and an election that felt sure they would win … one they and their candidate felt entitled to win.

Indeed, they feel rejected and cannot come to understand as they must, in these circumstances, that they must look within to ask: why is this so?  Why did so many others not favor them?

Yes, they have been betrayed.  But not by those who voted for their opponent – but rather by their ideology – an ideology which attacks tradition and faith that is its common witness.  In short, the Left has attacked and opposed tradition and religion.

As to ideology, it has no long human history.  It is a recent human construct, a fiction of intellect – not a vehicle of human and divine truth.  It is simply: a lie … and to live a lie is a personal betrayal, self-deception from which no authentic dialogue can arise.

In the West, the modern liberals and the Left have chosen intellect over faith, power over humility, what is false on its face from what is and has been sustained truth about humans and eternity.

If we are to have a civil society, the Left will have to see their errors and change their ways rather dramatically.  On our part, we must be present in kindness and calm to receive them when they desire to advance civil community once again.

Shalom.

… those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

Mt 23:20

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Make no mistake there are distinct, substantive differences between our two major parties.

Do not be deceived the last electoral result highlighted the very real difference between the common citizen and the elites: those with power, money, status – the intellectual and celebrity class, globalists, the media, the perpetual Washington insiders whose class status is far different from Mom and Dad in small town U.S.A. , and between the ideologues, “special pleaders,” and mere citizen taxpayers.

Frankly, the privileged class lost and the most politically-focused of them (the Left and the Washington wags who are used to being “important”) are offended and not taking their bite of humble pie very well.  Yes, their obstruction and rhetoric is destructive – having gone beyond civil debate.  Actually, their behavior mimics the Democrats in the Wisconsin legislature who fled their state and hid from their official duties so as to thwart the election of Republican Governor Scott Walker.

Like all actions people take, the angry objection to the voters choice of President tells us about those who are upset.  One thing it says is this: politics and power is a high priority for them – probably too important for their and our wellbeing as a nation.  Make no mistake a subset is NOT greater than the whole.  No one is more important than the nation.

It is always hard to speak to your Brother and Sister when they must be reproached – but speak we must – speak calmly, in a soft voice, as a friend, with authority and care. Reconciliation is the goal and it must always be.

Losses are difficult for many.  Those of us who have lived modestly and, in my case, on the “wrong side of the tracks” amid the very serious conflicts one can encounter – we are used to life’s ups and downs.  We learned long ago that no one wins all the time and that it is the losses which actually teach us the best lessons, impart the greatest truth and wisdom.

The one thing that we need now is a calm conversation with those who are most displaced by their perceived loss.  For civility to return, maturity must be cultivated and in this instance it means those hurt must listen to the voices of those who care for their welfare and that of this nation.  Yelling, fighting, anger will only inflame and put much at risk … including each of us.

Remember the opposite of love is not hate – but rather: indifference.  We cannot afford to draw battle lines, engage in nasty and dishonest behavior, retribution, character assassination, or violence.   Honest, calm conversation is the need.  An end to extreme language that excites ideologues and flames the fire … it must cease today, now.

I hope we are all to the task.  It is the humble who are exalted.  They are strongest who life has humbled.  Make no mistake – in the end the humble remain standing while the prideful fall. 

Shalom.

Postscript – I am always amazed that the “talking heads” on T.V. and many elected officials talk and talk without ever citing an authority – the words of someone whose insight and wisdom they share.  You have to conclude that they are talking through their hats, haven’t cracked a book since the 3rd grade.

You wonder: why would I listen to these people?  They really do not warrant my time.  They do not.  Happy landings.

 … words have power.  Words can light fire in the hearts of men.

Patrick Rothfuss, in The Name of the Wind

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Yes, words can inflame and we have been very loose with our words, caustic, harsh, antagonistic, divisive, hateful.  Our words can and do provoke others.

Republicans were hunted down yesterday by someone fueled by ideology. Words, harsh words – played a role in this act.

We had best take an honest account of our self.  We have demonized others, labeled them, made them targets, counted them “deplorable.”

This has been building for four or more decades.  This has got to stop.

One can only pray that we are kind enough and strong enough to put a stop to the hatred and demonizing that is so prevalent.  God help us all.

Shalom.

[Note: I had prepared a longer analytical post on violence and culture, but given the present inflammatory climate I have opted to offer what I hope is a helpful and more unifying post in the hopes that we might look critically at our self, our culture, and what we and others say.]

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