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The most paradoxical and at the same time unique and characteristic claim made by Christianity is that in the Resurrection of Christ the Lord from the dead, man has completely conquered death, and that “in Christ” the dead will rise again to enjoy eternal life, in spiritualized and transfigured bodies in a totally new creation … Such a fantastic and humanly impossible belief has been generally left in the background by the liberal Christianity of the 19th and 20th centuries … (Emphasis added.)

Thomas Merton, in The New Man

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Well that pretty much explains the roiling discontent many feel in their souls each day and explains the concern one has for their children and grandchildren – their country, Western Civilization and the exile of God from culture.  That is to say – we no longer carry at our core the above understanding.

The abandonment or loss of this perspective also explains the errant notions that flood our culture: same-sex marriage, Marxism, feminism, racism (expressed even by those who were once its victims), fanciful ideas of multiple genders, liberal intolerance and the like.

Think about it.  Is there any reason for a Believer to adopt any of the popular mantras and divisive dispositions so present in contemporary culture?  No.  There is not.

If one believes that Christ in His resurrection conquered death, there is no need for doubt, discontent or division.  And, yes – Merton is quite right that liberal Christianity have abandoned the unconquerable truth that Christ was Resurrected and as Christians this Resurrection rescues us from all apprehension – furnishes us with certainty, frees us to live fully and in the Spirit.

So in a sense, the unease we see, the hostility and antagonism and their attendant expressions and assertions literally have no place among those who Believe as Christians.

As Merton goes on to say – “Christianity without this fabulous eschatological claim is only a moral system without … spirituality consistency.”  I add only “a moral system” at best; for I have seen in my lifetime the weak idea of “ethics” displace morality as surely as man has replaced God in secular culture.

Ironically, in the age of ethics we get endless rules and regulations of all things and the extraordinary result that those who author the rules and regulations seem never to be held to them.  Out with morality – and corruption flourishes while individual responsibility, freedom, and accountability of the rule-makers seems to disappear.

Without the recognition of the Resurrection we are (as we now show) but a culture inclined to chaos and decline, the loss of freedom and community, and the sickness of godless existence.  Our present trajectory, of course, cannot hold.  We are at a critical moment.

Where are you in your thinking and living?  Best turn to God and the Truth of the Matter.

Shalom.

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Life and death are at war within us.  As soon as we are born, we begin at the same time to live and die … If by chance we become fully conscious of it, not only in the flesh and in our emotions but above all in our spirit, we find ourselves involved in a terrible wrestling, an agonia not of questions and answers, but of being and nothingness, spirit and void. (Emphasis added.)

Thomas Merton, in The New Man

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Last night I watched Part One of Ken Burns film on the Second World War.  I saw the war from the perspective of the common man and woman, the families in small towns and large cities.  It is, of course, a story of all ethnic groups, all races and religions, rich and poor, farmer, factory worker, school teacher, professional. Yes, it is the story of Americans when we were once One and united – neighbors, friends, a community, a proud and patriotic nation – people from foreign shores who arrived to make a new life and seize opportunity in a free society.

Burns shows us what we once were – before we became “fat” and fancy, successful, too expectant, spoiled, too focused on our own welfare and too rooted in demands and divisions from one another.

Once we lived implicitly what Merton describes: we were conscious of our supreme value – yes, of our God-given value – the divine equality of the soul.  Friends, this was how we once lived … You see victory in this world and the next comes only to those who live this way.

I grew up on a street with World War II vets in a working class city known for producing more U.S. Marines per capita than any city in the country.

The ethos of our greatest hour is now misplaced.  You see its absence in Members of the Congress – in the Flakes, Schumers, Pelosis, Durbins, Waters, et al … in the public chorus of “me first, only me” special pleaders whose arc of complaint stretches from the banal to the bizarre, and among the over-privileged in the entertainment industry and in the lost souls of media.

What we see is clear evidence of a loss of faith – of wisdom, perspective, patience.

In a secular society there is no transcendent purpose, no eternity – no moral context and all-embracing narrative.  No – secular life lacks meaning, leaves us shallow and self-absorbed – dependent, unhappy, … with an emptiness that breeds drug use, sexual chaos, hatred and violence.  Godlessness, we see, produces self-destruction.

Time to wake up.  We have regressed.  We lack the honor we once had – and the valor, bravery, virtue, honesty, confidence, integrity and purpose of our recent past.

Shalom.

All efforts based on parliamentary control and free-market economic mechanisms proved useless in quelling the growing polarization in opinion and stance.  Different propositions were put forward, ranging from anarchism to autocratic rule, and for many young people each seemed preferable to the rotten democracy they lived under.

Andrzej Franaszek, in Milosz

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These words describe the deteriorating political climate in Poland in the 1930’s and to some extent the political climate in Europe at the same time.

They so remind me of the extraordinary state of affairs and discontent in the U.S. today.  Partisanship reigns.  One Party houses the extreme Left.  Liberalism embraces nihilism and its echoes ring in the public square, mass media and the courts of law.  Anarchists, while small in number, dressed in black slash and burn.  Foundations fund the voices of Black racism.  We live in uneasy times.

Circumstances have changed.  The once stable America is less a source of certainty than it has been and the world becomes more dangerous.

We tilt Left and morals have been mothballed.  Trusted government institutions have lost their glow.  Public corruption tarnishes democracy.  Religious belief itself is in thin supply.  Education is below the waterline.  It is a troubled time.

History tells us that in such times the best young men mature more quickly … and across the land the wise turn back to faith.  Yes, extreme moments snap us into what is fundamental, personal, sure, uplifting, good and eternal – humanizing, strong, kind, heroic – the only option in dark days.

Beneath the flawless manners of a worldly gentleman he hid his compassion for all that is living.  Some people perhaps could sense it, but it was certainly known, in ways mysterious to us, to the small birds that would perch on his head and hands when he stopped in a park alley.

Czeslaw Milosz, in Goodness

Lord, bring us to our senses – to morality, honesty, kindness, compassion – Make us One.

Shalom.

 

There is an internal longing for harmony and happiness that lies deeper than ordinary fear or the desire to escape misery or physical destruction.

Czeslaw Milosz, in The Captive Mind

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The politics of the Left in American today fuels anger, conflict, division and violence.  It does not seek to heal but rather to dominate and destroy those who disagree with them.  They proceed just as Milosz saw under Communist rule in Poland and Eastern Europe.

Today in American, Czeslaw Mislosz would likely be persona non grata among those on the Left for he appealed not to hate and hostility but to our better human nature: the divinely planted desire for harmony and happiness.

Would not this nation excel if we sought first harmony with others?  Of course it would.  But first we must say to those who shout, malign, insult and act out violently: “Stop – calm down – are we not brothers and sisters, neighbors, friends?”

The fever pitch is far too loud today.  The angry voices of the Left are breaking bonds that hold us together.  The distance between the privileged elites and the common person is far too great.  Those on top act in isolation and expect others to conform to their wishes despite any discomfort those wishes might cause in the life condition and circumstances of those without privilege.

Those in power forget that communities are built on relationships from which trust and fellowship flow, and harmony is the common treasure.

Nothing would become us more at this moment in American history than to say to those who shout: “Be quiet, sit down – let’s share a table and a meal and talk about things we have in common and the harmony and happiness that we each seek because God made us good and wishes our relationship with Him and one another.

Think about this.  Reach out.  Practice harmony.

Our present task: restoration of this culture.

Shalom.

The shadow of the Enlightenment’s failure to replace God with reason has engulfed the West and plunged us into a new Dark Age.

Rod Dreher, in The Benedict Option

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It is abundantly clear to many who have studied America and the West from varied areas of expertise: historical, psychological, political, philosophical, theological, sociological, literary, psychiatric and such that we have attempted to anchor ourselves to the importance of self over God and that this is an unmitigated catastrophe.

Stated another way, we have foolishly trusted that reason alone (the individual – singularly and in the aggregate) can form a coherent, thoughtful, just, compassionate, kind and moral community.

Looking around each day, it seems impossible to believe that such a misguided and arrogant orientation has done anything but make us far worse off, weaker, more chaotic – yes, dramatically sicker, more fragmented, untruthful, corrupt, addicted, suicidal, crippled, angry, ugly, disoriented and violently anti-social.

Yet astonishingly few in the public eye recognize this – discuss it –largely because they are part of the whole sick mess and frequently doing quite well … that they are captives of this mess sitting at the top of its rubbish heap.

Look at the accurate snapshot of Washington today: the closed circle that is the Washington elite who cannot yield to the popular election of a President who is NOT one of them and who would DARE to pursue a course of action that disturbs the benefits of their cozy corrupt culture.

What you see today in Washington is the clear identity of the privileged political class that seeks not to do the will of the voter but rather preserve its own “status” in a very lucrative and easy gig.  Hey, it beats working!

Some of us who have lived broadly in our six or seven decades can tell you that the population at-large is quite different, far less civil or sane than it once was. Indeed, it is far sicker.

A lawyer I know recently recounted how a member of the Bar lost his license to practice because he drugged his underage client in order to sexually assault her.

From work, to family, to community, politics, primary and university education, etc. – in all quarters (particularly in major cities – Washington included) we regularly see evidence of the Dark Ages … yet do not stand against it.

Hell of a situation to behold.  Pitchfork, anyone?

Shalom.

The Russian Fixation – Interesting to watch the Democrat Left “Russian Fixation.”  They go way back in colluding with the Russians – Stalin, no less.

Remember Yalta and how FDR sold out Poland and Eastern Europe at Yalta – gave the Communists control over post-war Eastern Europe.  Shameful.

During the 1944 Warsaw Uprising against the Nazi occupiers, the U.S. did nothing to help the brave Polish people, and the Red Army sat still East of Warsaw until the Nazis could put down the uprising.  Talk about collusion!

Let’s not forget the New Deal was full of Lefties.

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.

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