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The salvation of this human world lies nowhere else than in the human heart, in power to reflect, in human meekness and human responsibility.

Vaclav Havel

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Salvation.  The heart + reflection + meekness + responsibility.  So observes Vaclav Havel.

Don’t see much of this around Washington these days.  Salvation is a word rarely heard since we began barring God from public conversation.  We can thank the marshmallow middle and the strident Left for that basic act of dislocation – as to the latter their inevitable preference for error.

Heart, reflection, meekness, responsibility.  Little of this here today.  Heartless is more the form.  Reflection, like thoughts of salvation, appears permanently shelved in favor of the instant news cycle where comments issue as frequently as pulse beats as politicos and “talking heads” tommy-gun out the “latest inside scoop” replete with “unnamed sources” (a delightful name for twins today, by the way).

Meekness, my God!  None of that here.  Washington is more a mob at Filene’s Basement tearing the bargain “name brand” apparel from one another in a melee resembling Wrestle-Mania gone mad.  Meekness, it seems, is too orderly and vulnerable for Washington today.  Gone is the obvious power of a calm and measured voice.

It follows there are few signs of responsibility – at least among the those who daily carp and complain, and report and exploit.

We could use some Vaclav Havel.  Inmates running an asylum never works well.

Shalom.

Footnote – Vaclav Havel is among the most interesting figures of the late last century and early 21st century.  A writer, philosopher, political dissident and politician who served as the last President of Czechoslovakia (1989-1902) and the first President of the Czech Republic (1903-2003).  A widely-esteemed and admired man or faith, courage, talent, heart, thoughtfulness, insight, humility, service and responsibility.  Don’t you wish we had such a presence here today. ‘Tis time to tell the children to be quiet.

Such a wonderful cool spring rain – gentle and quiet.  It pairs with the heart’s beat, easy breathing, the green and flowered forest, the pastures, hills, mountains, and umbrella pale gray sky.  It is a day for collecting thoughts, writing notes to friends, and making a chicken stew while incense burns and floats in the air.

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“How long are you going to keep killing people?” Lady Astor would ask Stalin brightly.  “As long as it is necessary,” he answered …

Whittaker Chambers, in Witness

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When he left his secret Communist espionage ring Whittaker Chambers felt “an uneasiness, an anxiety” which he identified as “spiritual.”  He pondered how and when it was that the “spirit of man” had gained its foothold in him.

He recalled he had wondered, quite involuntarily, what Communism lacked?  Why it was such “a rat’s nest of intrigue and faction?”  Why it housed a “corroding cynicism?”  What “keeps the human level of Communism so low?” Why it had “not produced a single inspired work of the mind” since the Revolution?

Chambers asked, is it God that it lacked?

He reasoned it’s killings and deceits injured the soul.

Yes, without God man’s actions most often attack the soul, and put to danger and trial the “spirit of man,” his essence, his identity – his divine inheritance.  In this is the edge of conversion in man.  

Within each of us is a longing for good, for God.  When this longing is neglected, denied (as it is by ideology and it our present highly secularized culture) man is estranged from himself, his true identity  – and meaning, purpose, intimacy, optimism, and peace are lost.

Today, we are like Chambers – captured by ideology and secularized culture. Combined they breed division and hostility and heighten anxiety, worry and isolation.  It follows the sooner one turns to God, the sooner health and civility is restored, community and fellowship are renewed, and we find peace and meaning – and become whole and one again.

Think critically.  Are you Chambers?  Is your brother or neighbor Chambers?  Your pastor?  Elected official?  Have you lost longtime friends whose lives are narrowed and governed by ideology, secularism, and utopian political nonsense?

In this past century, Mao killed 60 million of his countrymen, Stalin killed 50 million, and Hitler thirty million.  All ideologues.  Each godless.

Think about it.  140 million people killed by political ideologues.

Shalom.

… in order to integrate himself anew, man must submit himself once more to a higher power … We must now experience immanently what the Middle Ages experienced transcendentally.

Nicholas Berdyaev, in The Meaning of History

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Surveying the American political landscape can be pretty dismal.  The common liberal refrain is to say, “Ugh, Donald Trump” as if he alone warrants disfavor.

Good God: Al Franken, Nancy Pelosi, Chuckie “Hair-Plug” Schumer, Slap-Happy Tim Kane, Susan Collins, Maxine Waters, Bernie “Never Had a Paying Job” Sanders, Little Harry Reid … The list is endless.

Is it any wonder that the policy process is disordered as it is?

Which brings one to Nicholas Berdyaev.

Berdyaev seeks the full development of the human person and includes in that his and her spiritual development.  He sees that asceticism plays a part in the fullness of the human person.

From his quote above, he sees that without a relationship with God, man cannot flourish. I would add: nor can peace be realized, community established and sustained, and wisdom prevail.

If there is one thing about the present political and cultural landscape that strikes me it is this: it is flat, material, quarrelsome, often foolish and distasteful, wasteful, counterproductive and utterly uninspiring.

Placing Berdyaev’s words on today’s landscape makes me wonder if those of us who are faithful might shift gears ever so slightly.  Our habit is to focus on The Father, and The Son – but less so on The Holy Spirit.  In the former we sit more materially than mystically.

Imagine the re-orientation if one and one’s culture and politics were to accommodate immanent experience.

In such a turn, people would live from the inside out – concern would shift from a collective culture of “free stuff” to desire that all might grow in individual responsibility and dignity.  Indeed we might pass from dependent serfdom to sacred being.

Imagine if each thought of himself, herself and others as sacred beings.  Yes, living in the The Spirit – life is recognized for the mystical experience that it is.

If you want to jump the curve from a nation of people who seek that others might care for their every need, accommodate their strangest infantile whim, ask yourself this: if we all felt that we were sacred beings responsible to live fully, in dignity and in joy, would we not cease the foolishness we now exhibit and enjoy the leadership of the wisest and most faithful among us?

Shalom.

Thinking about America and a New Presidency

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Mrs. Clinton is depression: you know exactly who she is, what trouble she brings – she always brings a sack of scandal – and she won’t make anything better. (Emphasis added.)

Peggy Noonan, in The Wall Street Journal, September 3-4, 2016

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If one is concerned about Donald Trump as our President, one must also pass an eye over his opponent.

Ms. Clinton is the face of the Democrat Party of the Left.  She and her husband have a long and spotted public record.  Democrats own her, and all that comes with her.  Yet, their inability to look critically at her discredits their collective hysteria over Mr. Trump.

To commence a new Presidency requires a recall of what we have just experienced in his opponent.

I cite just a few things.

The FBI flies on Ms. Clinton’s softball, not-under-oath interview (made public the Friday before Labor Day) show she could neither “recall” nor “remember” details or events as related to 27 specific questions.

Recall, if you will, that in March 2015 she claimed she used one digital device “for convenience.” Yet, the FBI determined she used 13 – including five iPads which were thought to be exposed to others without authority to see them.

Ms. Clinton, by the way, had been formerly advised by the appropriate State Department personnel of the daily threat of computer hacking by foreign agents. Multiple devices just multiplies the risk of having foreign agents secure national secrets.

The FBI determined Ms. Clinton sent or received hundreds of emails marked as classified or confidential while outside the United States where the risk of being hacked by adversaries multiplies again, and becomes a virtual certainty.

Of course we know Ms. Clinton used an unsecured computer server and that the FBI investigation suggested that she had done so to evade accountability.  Of course, to “evade accountability” raises the prospect that one might wish to conceal what they were doing.

Some people have expressed concern that Ms. Clinton intended to keep others from reviewing the degree to which her work as Secretary of State collided with the ongoing activity of the Clinton Foundation.  Apropos, the FBI identified some 17,000 plus emails (not turned over to them) that seemed to contain both personal and work material.

FBI Director James Comey called Ms. Clinton’s behavior “extremely careless.”

It has been a strange year for the letter “C.”  Comey, Clinton, careless, computer, classified, confidential, corruption.  “C”,” mind you, comes before “D.”

Gripers might remember that. “C” before “D.”  Clinton before Donald.

Shalom.

Footnote – There is no pleasure per se and commenting about politics except that we live in a political society and public figures and the public discourse tells us who we appear to be and in that is a measure of faith.  In public matters do we see virtue?  Morals?  Truth? Excellence?  Honor?  Service to others? Or self-gain?  Division?  Confusion and worse?

God so loved the world that He gave His only Son …

Jn 3:16

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This is the starting point of Christian life – that God, out of pure love of us, came to us incarnate so we would cease to be alienated from the source and meaning of life – mortal and eternal.

Indeed, in the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ we are offered this: all the things we do that divide us from God, and one another, can be overcome if we but believe and act on our beliefs.

In this, Christianity transforms us, makes us brothers and sisters and places our relationship with Him above all other things.  Such is the solidarity that God has created with us and the dignity His love of us proclaims for each person.  In this we are raised up, exalted as His children.

God’s love of us transfigures us, identifies our worth and calls us into our full being.  In this comes confidence, courage, tranquility, forgiveness, honor, humility, fellowship, unity, love of others.

This gift gives the primacy to God.  Yes, it is not man and government, nor commerce, nor power, nor politics, nor control, nor wealth, nor status, nor celebrity, nor possessions, nor gender, nor race, nor title, nor sexuality that comes first – but God and our identity as His children and our call to serve others, not self, as God serves us – that is who and why we are.

This is the foundation of a nation that possesses a Christian heritage.  This is a way of being that offers fellowship, community, family, unity – a nation of One – an indivisible nation, a family of many as One.

That said, where are the voices to reprimand the violent protestors?  Why no unifying voice from Mrs. Clinton?  Why the divisive intent of Ms. Stein’s recount?

Are we not in need of unification?  Cooperation?  Do we not face foreign adversity?  Domestic challenges?  The rise of hostile entities in the world?  Unsustainable deficits?  Unemployed people?  A sea of idle dependents?

Exalted by God’s great act of love, the silence of some and the divisiveness of others stands without condemnation.  What does God imagine in this?

Shalom.

He alone is modern who is fully conscious of the present.

Carl Jung, M.D.

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These words appear in a chapter entitled “The Spiritual Problem of Modern Man” in Jung’s book Modern Man in Search of a Soul.  At first blush it would appear that this is a complimentary observation.  But it is not and it is not intended by Jung to be.

In speaking of the spiritual problem of modern man, Jung sees one who stands on a peak unable to experience the story of mankind now disappeared to him in the “primeval mists.”

In speaking of the spiritual problem of modern man, he is saying the modern man is captured by the immediate present, one without access to his unconscious self and the wisdom derived from the history of man, the story of man – inside and out.

For Jung, this man is a solitary creature unable to enter the “participation mystique” with the mass of man. One might say modern man lacks intimacy, becomes anxious, neurotic, and psychotic in this form.  Likewise that he is lonely and alone, unable to build and sustain marriages, family, community, fraternity, relationships with others or his interior true self.

Further one might say such a man ushers in godless existence, for imagining God is unimaginable to him.

Jung notes that this modern man no longer has interest in the “values and strivings” of those who have come before him. He is, as Jung says, “unhistorical;” one might say estranged from humanity and himself in a very troubling way.

Jung sees those who deny the past and its lesson as “uprooted human beings, blood-sucking ghosts, whose emptiness is taken for unenviable loneliness …(which) casts discredit upon him.”

The spiritual problem of modern man, then?   He has “renounc(ed) the halo which history bestows as a mark of its sanction.” And he opines: “To be ‘unhistorical’ is the Promethean sin, and in this sense modern man lives in sin.”

Does this not provide a way of understanding those who claim to lead, only to hasten calamity and decline?  Does this not tell you the stakes that mount with every secular moment we live? With every secular pronouncement and policy we recieve?  Abide by?

Shalom.

Whether we listen … to the dreamlike … witch doctor of the Congo, or read … translations from the sonnets of … Lao-tse … crack the hard nutshell of the arguments of Aquinas, or the shining meaning of a bizarre Eskimo fairly tale: it will be always the one, shape-shifting yet marvelously constant story … we find … with a … persistent suggestion of more remaining …

Joseph Campbell, in The Hero with a Thousand Faces

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Thus begins the first paragraph in Campbell’s classic book.  Yes, we are story seekers and storytellers.  Why?  Because we need story evermore so more than a story needs us.

Stories create community and we are a communal and relational species.  Hence we think and learn in metaphor and that means in story.

You see human nature and human existence, along with the existence of the cosmos since before the creation of time – or before man as we know man was known by man – we have faced this: a complexity too difficult to understand but for stories that explain bit by bit, century after century.

The human being yearns for knowledge of his very own story: who he or she is, what his or her purpose is, their meaning, how they function, why they exist.

There is no healthy human being or culture but that they have a comprehension as to their story – small and personal, large and inter-personal.

You wonder why borders are important?  What is at stake with the changing face of Europe and its movement from Christianity to Islam?  When mega stories are discarded the world is changed in a fundamental and devastating way.  Yes, security and identity are lost.  You see this in the Middle East where Christians and Christianity are exiled, obliterated.

For each of us, life is a story, large and small.  Only those who know story, their own and that of the tribe and world they occupy, can lead for all the others lack insight, wisdom, calm, brilliance, competence, self-awareness, connection with others.

Without knowledge of your own story and that of those with whom you share time and space – there is no vision, mere blindness and vast ranges of mistake, error, and self-destruction.

We live in an age of Leftist ideology.  Ideology is not story. It is too small, too wooden, hollow and trite to be story.  It contains no lasting truth and cannot assume its place among the stories and understandings that have lived centuries upon centuries, indeed created and sustained civilization.  Rather ideology and its proponents are ignorant, their path one of smaller and disordered minds.

Ideology and its proponents are bound for destruction – yes, but the possession of fools with loud voices, aggressively shouting over sacred truths.

Jesus was a storyteller.  He shared parables to teach truths.

What is your narrative?  What is the narrative of those to whom you listen?  Do they know their own story?  Are you convinced they know our nation, our civilization and their story?

These are critical questions for you.  Actually your life depends on it.

Shalom.

Please share this post with others.  Thank you.

I arise each morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world.  This makes it hard to plan a day.

E.B. White

“Put me down in the ‘enjoy’ column.”

Bob Sylvester

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There are endless ways in which a culture is secularized.  One is in the un-examined use of language and ideas and the meaning and inclinations they embody.

Adolphe Tanguerey says it well in his classic The Spiritual Life when he says: “The virtue of charity supernaturalizes and sanctifies the sentiment of love toward God and toward the neighbor.

What is he saying?

Our charitable instincts and actions are inclined toward God.  They unite us to God, are the consequences of our creation, are a bridge – a  link – to God the Creator.

If one thinks otherwise one misses the intimacy that is conveyed by our own instincts and acts of charity toward others.

Bled of its essence, charity loses its depth and we easily come to think that we are “special” and (then) view ourselves as rather “superior” to those to whom we extend kindness, charity.  In this, God and the experience of God is excluded and what is a spiritual reality becomes secularized and less fulfilling than it otherwise would be.

Love and charity tend the soul toward what is good.

Our impulse to good, when perceived by faith, provides an intimate relationship with God, is (for the Christian) Christian love of God and other.  Lose that reference point and we are secularized – lose the fullness of being that we once routinely understood, experienced and possessed.

When we retain the connection between God and our charitable instincts and deeds we celebrate the relationship that exists between our self and others – a fellowship, a brotherhood – the human family of all God’s children.

When you think about it – charity is a predicate to peace because it anchors us in the human community, defuses antagonism and dislike of others – life centered on self and our insecurities.

Charity consciously connected to faith sanctifies life, our existence and that or others.  It draws us into relationship with God.  It opens our life to the experience of God.  Indeed, in loving others we love God.  Properly located, charity identifies that we are all children of God.

“Social justice” is not rooted in a relationship with God.  Rather it is language that orients us toward politics, and comes from Marxist “class consciousness,” a view that is scrubbed of faith and pits one person against another.  Yes, it paves the way not for the experience of God, but the dominance of Big Brother government.

In “social justice” our fellow men and women are not seen and experineced as children of God but rather as victims of inevitable class conflict.  It draws battle lines not fellowship.

The contrast between the former view of charity and the Marxist view of “social justice” is the contrast between the unity of all of God’s children and the perpetual conflict of His children.  One gives life, the other takes it.

Does anyone really think God would make us for perpetual conflict?  Does not “social justice” advance that unlikely and erroneous proposition?

Think about it.

Shalom.

 

 

He had performed … many signs, yet they were not believing in Him … they could not believe because Isaiah said … “he has blinded their eyes and he hardened their heart, so that they would not see with their eyes and perceive with their heart …”

Jn 12:37, 39, 40

One of the fundamental aspects of life in the past 100-150 in the West has been the changing landscape of belief – its decline, its variation, and the emergence of unbelief and of phenomenology – the study of human experience and the conscious perceptions that foster human behavior, influence belief or its absence or dissipation.

If there is but one thing we might be wise to attend to in this chaotic and disintegrating age we live in the West today, it is belief – and the rise of unbelief.

When you think about it belief and unbelief are central to human relationship, the nature and quality of human existence, the perceptions that govern individual and collective conduct – especially government conduct, policy and behavior – both things pursued and things shunned.  Is it not, as a result, important to take account?

Yes, the conflicts we have in our culture and politics are based in belief and unbelief.

But what separates the two?

Charles Taylor in his book A Secular Age gives a brief way to distinguish belief from unbelief.

To him belief as manifest in humans has these characteristics:

  • an understanding that human fullness comes to us from another loving source who gives freely
  • it prompts the practice of devotion, prayer, charity and self-giving
  • it produces an understanding that one is far from fullness in its perfect state – i.e., it fosters humility
  • it reminds us that as humans we are bound to lesser things and goals – i.e., that we are not the source of life nor the embodiment of perfection
  • it evokes knowledge that power and fullness come through relationships
  • it teaches that the reception of fullness transforms a person for the better
  • that morality is heteronomous.

In contrast, unbelief carries these characteristics:

  • the power to reach fullness is within oneself, one’s own ability and doing – i.e., that we are agents of our own fullness
  • that reason exceeds nature and elevates above all else the human person as a rational agent
  • that our genius for reason allows us to be fully self-governing with laws as the vehicle of our genius
  • that morality is autonomous
  • that reason fully engaged creates a reverence for our own power and for power itself – coming in turn to see fullness as power fully employed
  • that in this context (construal) we are individualized and relationships with others less likely and less necessary – we become in reason and power atomized, divided.

Perhaps in this, you can sense the crisis we face.

Are we to form a more perfect union as unbelievers?  Know peace?  Community? Love? Brotherhood?  Pursue the full development of the human person and come to know happiness and contentment as unbelievers?

From the look of things it hardly seems likely.

” … he has blinded their eyes and … hardened their heart …”

Shalom.

Differences were meant by God not to divide but to enrich.

J. H. Oldham, in Faith and Order

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I recall a story about the former Speaker of the House, Tip O’Neill – a robust, friendly, people-loving, working class, Catholic Irishman from Cambridge, Massachusetts, right next to Boston.

The story is this: while Speaker, Tip attended a reception held on the Hill and met a man and asked him his name, to wit the fellow said, “Robert Redford.” Tip responded to the well-known actor at the height of his fame with this, “What do you do, Mr. Redford?”

Tip was so anchored in serving people at-large he didn’t know one celebrity from another.

In a piece in the February 27-28 Wall Street Journal, columnist and keen American observer Peggy Noonan identified “a terrible feature” in our nation today, and said of it this: ” … we are governed by protected people who don’t seem to care much about their unprotected fellow citizens.  (Emphasis added.)”

She went on to say rightfully, ” … a country cannot really continue this way.”

Herein, is the gist of those aligned behind Mr. Trump.

The elites in politics, those holding power, those running and funding the two political parties are often, unlike the American citizen, buffeted and far removed from the laws, policies, programs and demands they create and impose on others, and from the harsh consequences of the ill-fated acts accorded their privileged positions.

Those who are the “unprotected” are Trump’s troops at present.

I recall seeing this “protected” class begin to form when I was on Capital Hill and politics turned toward a celebrity occupation, and away from a citizen-servant endeavor.

This is “the protected class” that Ms. Noonan sees.  Of course, they are joined by elites in academia, the media, entertainment and the press.

Now we have those who control, and the controlled.  Those who place their faith in government, and those who place their faith in God.  Those who suffer from slow economic growth and those who are unaffected by it.  Those who desire liberty and those who push dependence on the Nanny State.  Those who trust independent thought and those who would enforce group-think.   Those who fight and die for this land and their neighbors, and those who withdraw from such obligations.  Those serving others, and those serving only themselves.

Social philosophers are always saying the underclass must re-moralize.  Maybe it is the overclass that must re-moralize.

Peggy Noonan, in The Wall Street Journal, February 27-28, 2016

Maybe, indeed, it is.

Let us remember the 10th Amendment to our Constitution: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”  (Emphasis added.)

Better power be local, where we can keep an eye on it.

Shalom.

 

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