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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.

 

… 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.   

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.

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.

God works in history, therefore a contemplative who has no sense of history, no sense of historic responsibility … is not fully a Christian contemplative: he is gazing at God as a static essence … But we are face to face with the Lord of history and with Christ the King … light of the world … We must confront Him the awful paradoxes of our day …

Thomas Merton

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If there is one (and there is) central failure that puts us in the conflict, and confusion, and chaos … and danger and division, that we face today it is our failure to know and serve God as the Lord of History.

All of the immorality, hostility, bitterness, rancor, hatred and rank stupidity can be assigned to that one failure.

Likewise, the destructive behaviors we witness in special pleaders of unwise causes are the product of God’s exile, and in that absence – the geometric ignorance and needless destruction it produces.

Yesterday, I watched an episode of The Ozzie and Harriet Show and one of The Rockford Files.  The former from the 1950’s and the latter from the 1960’s.  Each was a delight. Each well-written, and nicely acted. Each told an engaging story – the former in a family context, the latter in a detective format.

In the former we saw truths about husbands and wives, men and women, family, brothers, neighbors, boys and girls and human nature.  It was fun to watch. Truth told in a gentle and amusing manner.  It was nice TV … it sat a tone, was believable – represented a reality that was and could be: a relaxed and kindly family environment.

In the latter, we had a “who done it” yarn with the focus being the work of a not-so-successful, and unflappable private detective whose status-life was that of living in a trailer parked on asphalt adjoining a stretch of California beach.

Our hero detective was an anti-hero – an earnest man (yet not beyond employing a street-smart trick now and again) who was resigned to the riff-raff of life without losing his kind and understanding nature.  He was, indeed, an everyman with the wonderful grace to live life as it presented – without scorning what he saw.

Yes, in the 50’s and the early 60’s we effortlessly lived with God the Lord of History and in so doing, we were not out-of-control, frantic, required to “get-our-own-way.”  We were then, sublime, without anxiety or fits anger, public or otherwise … better yet there was no need for intolerant crusaders.  Social justice had yet to emerge to anoint any and all mediocre C-minus-minus people into obnoxious “know-it-all” crusaders.  In short, looking back you see that when God is recognized as the Lord of History … our life is easier and our relationships much more pleasant.

I’ll pass on the very unfunny bores of late night TV, and the likes of Chuckie Schumer and the talking heads of CNN, MSNBC, et al, the vacuous celebrities who have opinions about all manner of things never thoroughly considered, and on the minor leaguers of The Times, The Post etc.

Today we are so dumb and uninformed we don’t realize life (properly considered and experienced) is so much easier … death-defying anxiety and hostility is not mandatory.

Try thinking of God as essential – as the Lord of History … ignore those who speak as if God is either dead or indifferent to us … Such people are as common as a penny and just as valuable.

Shalom.

Delight in smooth sounding platitudes, refusal to face unpleasant facts … the utter devotion of the Liberals to sentiment apart from reality … played a definite part in unleashing upon the world … horrors and miseries (World War II).

Winston S. Churchill, in The Gathering Storm

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Wars have their prelude, their component miscues and misadventures, their self-delusions and grand deceits.

One thinks of this now as many troubling signs emerge.

Russia is in Syria propping up a brutal regime, Iran pursues both nuclear weapons and expansion while supporting insurgents in foreign lands, North Korea strives for a nuclear arsenal and European countries seed authority to stateless Brussels bureaucrats while terrorists roam their homeland largely unabated.

In the United States, we enlarge the national debt, fatten the dependent population and the expand the expectations of citizens for more and more national benefits.

Some European nations are beginning to resume required national military service, yet attention turns to “global warming” as if nothing is more important. Fantasies absorb us.

In our once mature and sane representative democracy, college students require pampering and “protection” from free speech while some assault civility and those with whom they disagree.  On campus, hate is protected by cowardly administrators.

In the public square God is unwelcome while obesity looms and one wonders where the next “Greatest Generation” has gone.

As Churchill rightly notices, the antics of the Liberals pave a nasty road to a tragic destination.

Hard to dispute this today.  Indeed, we have lost touch with truth, and consequently, with reality.  But neither truth nor reality have lost touch with us.

At the foundation of moral thinking lie beliefs in statements the truth of which no further reason can be given.

Alasdair MacIntyre, in After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory

When immorality prevails, we have stopped believing … without belief, truth and reality are lost and the storm gathers.

Shalom.

Postscript – An “unfunny”* female “comic” thought it amusing to be photographed holding the “head” of President Donald Trump.  Darling …

It is, thank God, always the case that people “self-report” – tell you who they are. So with this woman we see the Left is quite comfortable with those who behead their enemies. Charming …

(* “unfunny” is a state of being whereby a person does not have a humorous impulse in their body … if you see these people coming, run quickly in the opposite direction … if you encountered them in a social setting, make yourself disappear as soon as possible)

“Come let us build us a city, and a tower with it to in the sky, to make a name for ourselves.”

Gen 11:4

This Tower of Babel story is quite an interesting story for its utility and application throughout the ages.

If you recall Babylonian people wanted to build a tower with its top to the sky.  In essence this is a story used to show the pridefulness of people – how they could not come to defer to the dominion of God … their Superior.

How often do people act having “made a name” for themselves or seek to make a name for themselves?  It is quite a frequent event … now and throughout human history.

Think about it, the Babylonians were technically advanced … yet, they did not pursue this tribute to themselves with any sense of God, any reverence for God. They exalted themselves – mankind, their genius.

Pride always derails the prideful. Humility, on the contrary, insures success and contentment.

Shalom.

Excarnation … the process by which religion is dis-embodied and de-ritualized.

James. K.A. Smith, in How (Not) to Be Secular

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The challenge we face in America and the West is excarnation.  The question posed: will we believe or will we not?

Failing to believe in God, we shall all the same rely on something to anchor us. That something might be our gender, or our sexual behavior, an ideology, our self to the exclusion of all others, or nothing at all …

Yesterday, little was said by American mass media of the killing of a bus load of Egyptian Coptic Christian mothers and children on their way to a monastic retreat. Why, you might ask?

The answer is really quite simple – those who govern media are excarnated.  They do not believe.  Religion does not matter to them … or to the Democrat and “progressive” Left politicians, by the way.  It is worth noting that Senator Schumer did not pop up on T.V. to rant about the killing of these innocent, unarmed believers.  Granny Pelosi was absent, too.  No surprise really. Remember, candidate Obama referred to believers as those who cling to the guns and the Bible … and Hillary thinks of believers as “unredeemable.”

The Left does not hide its hostility, nor its ignorance.

If you want to know what is at the core of the hatred of Donald Trump – it is not Trump himself but those who voted for him and their beliefs.  Religious belief is an obstacle to the pagan practices and policies of the Left.  The core of today’s problem in our nation and the West centers on belief.  

Incarnation or excarnation?

Shalom.

… he who finds me finds life … all those who hate me love death.

Prov 8: 35, 36

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It is a simple admonition – plain and concrete.  Yet, it seems we live in an age in which many substitute ideology and bias and neglect the quest for wisdom and understanding.

I think in particular of the news media and the American Left.  And yes, it seems they hate all that does not match their ideology and yes, they lead to death.

Surely the division they breed shows this, as does the tenure of their most Leftist politicians and public policies.  One need only think of Obamacare, or the folly of the “Arab Spring,” or the abject weakness shown in the Syrian “line in the sand” regarding chemical weapons, or the fiasco and lies that surround the unnecessary deaths as Benghazi, or the Russian “reset,” or the inability to balance a budget, or the hateful efforts to destroy the Trump Presidency, or the insult that would have many Americans labeled “redeemable.”  The list goes on.

Ideology is the enemy of wisdom, and death is its yield.  The Nazis and Communists have shown this.  The latter in its many iterations across the globe in the last 100 years.

If you seek life, seek wisdom.  If you seek death, ignore the quest for wisdom.

When you live in an age where ideology is foisted on you, you’d best reject it and those who live by it.

In Christ there is wisdom and the way to life.  Ideologues, in contrast ignore, God and wisdom – and calamity results – on the way to death.

Shalom.

Hubris – Pride is poisonous.  It is ever present in America today.  You see it endlessly at college commencements when some celebrity or Leftist politician tells the graduates to “change the world.”  Horse-hockey.

Yesterday, Mark Zuckerberg told Harvard graduates that they needed to create a world where everyone has a purpose.  This from a guy without a college degree. Did it not occur to him that perhaps God established such a world long, long ago? Or that telling Harvard graduates this most likely only added to their Crimson hubris?

Why do we want more nitwits running amok?

We don’t need more pride, we need more humility.  And, “No thanks, Lefty – you’ve done enough damage.  Keep your idiocy to yourself.”  I wonder if the person that invented the mousetrap felt compelled to tell others to “change the world?”  

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