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The transformation of charity into legal entitlement has produced both donors without love and recipients without gratitude.

Antonin Scalia

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These words are from an address given by former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome in 1996.

Among his observations are these:

  • “a Christian should not support a government that suppresses faith or one that sanctions the taking of innocent life”
  • he knows of “no country in which the churches have grown fuller as the government has moved leftward”
  • the most religious nation in the West (the U.S.) is a capitalist society that is “least diluted by socialism”  (Emphasis added.)
  • since FDR’s New Deal, the U.S. has taken on the increasing role of a welfare state (i.e., taking tax proceeds of all and dispensing them to select individuals and groups that are deemed “needy” – and building political constituents in the process)
  • “Christ’s view was that you should give your goods to the poor, not that you should force someone else to give his (to others)”  (Emphasis added.)
  • “to the extent that the states takes upon itself one of the corporal works of mercy that would have been undertaken privately, it deprives individuals of an opportunity for sanctification and deprives the body of Christ of the occasion for interchange of love among its members”
  • the welfare-state does not contain or convey the Christian virtue of altruism
  • “governmentalization of charity effects … the donor but also the recipient … What was once asked as a favor is now demanded as an entitlement … the teaching of welfare socialism is that the world owes everyone a living.”

What Scalia lays out is the decline of the role of faith in secular culture – and with it the loss of moral conduct long displayed by acts of religiously inspired service.

Likewise socialism fundamentally changes the way humans experience themselves, others and the nature of fellowship and community – indeed it blunts the power of love and hope … it deprives us of faith and sanctification.

Make no mistake, religion and God have been shunned in the post-New Deal environment – and, frankly, when moral conduct is not fostered through a population who has an active faith – hostility and faithless division takes its place.  There we become a troubled and self-destructive culture with less opportunity to make of us brothers and sisters to one another.

Converting to socialism and BIG government is, quite simply, destructive.

Shalom.

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If the word is lost, if the spent word is spent / If the unheard, unspoken / Word is unspoken, unheard; / Still is the unspoken word, the Word unheard, / The Word without a word, the Word within / The world and for the world; / And the light shone in darkness and / Against the Word the instilled world still whirled / About the center of the silent world.

T. S. Eliot, in Ash – Wednesday

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Between World War I and World War II, the American Eliot joined the Anglican Church.  In his poem Ash – Wednesday, he works out his commitment to Christ and Christianity.

His words might serve is well in the time we now share – a time of disintegration, and violence emerging from within, with hostility on display and a legislative body “of the people” which does not legislate … does not work, and leaves the task of governing to executive fiat, the force of bureaucracy and oft-enfeeble courts of law.

We have become too comfortable, too fat, too expectant, too brittle with false thoughts of self to the exclusion or our whole being, or the others standing near.  Free speech fades as the voices of intolerance grow louder.

We have lost a generation to education – not of what has worth but rather degrees in “studies,” ideological droplets tailored to bias and division : “studies of gender,” “women studies,” “white privilege studies,” “Black studies,” “Latino studies,”  “Immigrant studies” … We no longer teach how to reason, think, explore, build relationships, maintain an open mind, defend the rights of all, turn to God and prayer …  Having won the war, this is our postwar debris, our landscape –  homeless heroin users in San Francisco, burnt headless animals left to intimidate a public servant, shameless vulgarity, value shaming in many forms delivered by moral vagrants, legions upon legions trapped in government dependence and no expectations … talk of injuring others – – – innocents no more … blood nears …

Do you hear the Word?  That which is and was before all time – Word waiting to be heard?

Time is ripe for a return to the Word – for word in action, word making us solemn and assured – unafraid … Shepherds seeking their sheep danger notwithstanding.

We seek our sheep in twilight, as night closes and violence and division grow … 

Poor sheep, what will the Shepherds do?

Shalom.

 

Men of Athens, I honor and love you; but I shall obey God rather than you … O my friend, why do you, who are a citizen of the great and mighty and wise city of Athens, care so much about laying up the greatest amount of money and honor and reputation, and so little about wisdom and truth and the greatest improvement of the soul … (Emphasis added.)

Socrates, in The Apology

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It is safe to say the above is worth thinking about given the present state of our political and public life. I suspect those most vocal and most stirred up today would not have a clue that Plato wrote The Apology or that it reported on the trial of Socrates.  Forget any greater recollection of Socrates and his point of view.

Yes, in substance and knowledge we are lacking – yet, so much more in manners, insight, discretion and morality.

Today, listening to public discourse (advocacy and reporting, in particular) is presently best done only now and again to get a “flavor” of the state and content (such as it is) of the conversation, lest you find yourself: (a) aggravated and quite discouraged, and (b) utterly misinformed and subsequently anxious for your welfare and that of your children, grandchildren, family members, friends and nation.

That said, the point of presenting the above words is to highlight that Socrates reminds us of the primacy of wisdom and truth and our soul … and of God, and a personal relationship with God.

Imagine for a moment what benefit we would claim, if those in the public square were well-educated in the classics and in the pillars of Western Civilization, possessed manners, valued wisdom, truth and the soul – and, above all, God … and had a personal relationship with God.

In such a magnificent state, so many utterly obnoxious public figures would vanish and, assuming a public that was properly educated and mannered, our present need for all sorts of government crutches would likely be greatly diminished in favor of the blessings of individual responsibility anchored in personal confidence among our neighbors.

We appear to be a long way from Athens and the negative consequences are many.

Think about that.

Shalom.

 

 

Religious experience is inevitably human experience.  It has to do with the human consciousness both individual and collective.  (Emphasis added.)

Thich Nhat Hanh, in Living Buddha, Living Christ

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If religious experience is human experience, then it follows that human experience is religious experience. 

That said, experiencing human life is the experience of religious (or spiritual) reality.  What we are saying is this: one cannot separate the experience of the Divine from that of the mundane – from human existence.  Indeed, God is neither absent nor dead – but rather present and alive in us – whether we acknowledge it or not.

Assume for a moment that this is absolutely true.  With that, one might ask what caused us to discount God and Divine experience?  And, what is the price we might pay for living only in the mundane world?

The first question is answered by Charles Taylor in his book A Secular Age where he lays out in considerable detail how the Enlightenment and the Reformation pushed us toward an exclusive humanism that counted reason and the mundane world as the preeminent focus of human life and in so doing radically altered (narrowed) the scope of human experience.

As to the “price” we have paid – I would say that it made each life less full and made living far more difficult.  My view is that we have vested much hope and expectation in the “genius” of the imperfect (and often nefarious, selfish or disordered) human person and his and her institutions, governance, ideas, ideologies, laws, rules, regulations, fades and fancies.

In short, man in his power and conduct is not God – not even close.

Abandoning the relationship with the Divine, one is left to rely on one’s own very limited ways and many weaknesses.  The consequences are visible today.  Need I remind anyone of adultery, abortion, divorces, child neglect and abuse, homicides, suicides, sexual molestation, drug addictions, obesity, mental illness, unhappiness, envy, hostility, randon mass shootings, political corruption, widespread government inter-generational dependence, racism, gender confusion, teen pregnency, unwed mothers, broken families, fatherless families, female teachers having sex with their underage students … etc.

If human experience is religious experience, you would have to conclude that in today’s secular culture we show evidence that we are neither living as human beings nor as religious people.

Where are you in this matter?

Shalom.

“The works I do in my Father’s name testify to me.  But you do not believe, because you are not my sheep.”

Jn 10: 25, 26

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These are the words Jesus spoke to Jews in Jerusalem at the Temple.  Let’s put them in today’s context.

Yesterday a young man in Toronto drove a van down the sidewalk and killed ten people and seriously injured more.  A few days ago in Nashville, Tennessee, a young man entered a restaurant early in the morning and shot and killed four patrons and injured others.  Each young man had a history of mental health problems.

These two incidents are reminders of the Parkland, Florida, school shootings that took the lives of 17 students.  That young man also has a history of mental illness.  In that case, the public authorities totally failed to address the needs of that very troubled young man.

” … you do not believe, because you are not my sheep …”

The success of Alcoholics Anonymous is dependent on recognition of the existence of God (“a higher power’) and on our limitations to address our problems as if we are that “higher power.”

It seems to me that the constant signs of our neglect of those in need and the violent actions of those who (in their deranged state) randomly kill innocent people is an indication of our neglect of our own spiritual needs.  

I think too of the two lesbian women who adopted six foster care children and retained custody of those children while having had run afoul of child welfare officials in three states.  As you recall these two women drove a vehicle (with the children in it) off a California cliff to their collective deaths 100 feet below.

We are a troubled nation because we have forsaken belief … because we have neglected our full health, our need for spiritual sustenance.

Indeed we live like we are each a god unto our self.  We are, in this regard, absolutely NOT helped by all the discontented “special pleaders” in politics and particularly the angry godless voices on the Left who create division and disorder and their counterparts in the Democrat Party in the U.S. Congress, the federal bureaucracy and in state and local government.  Yes, godless voices breed sickness and hostility.

Let’s be honest, we awake each day to read or hear about one or more horrific accounts of murder, child abuse, infanticide, abhorrent sexual assaults, or some form of human deprivation that is beyond our imagination or understanding … and we see day after day the utter failure of authorities to do much of anything about these matters.

You know I recall the hubris of Mr. Obama who boasted about fundamentally transforming America and that no one seemed ever to ask in what form this change might take, nor did anyone dare to say to him: “Hey, pal, you’re NOT God and you have accomplished nothing thus far in your life.”

The point to be made?  Man is not God.  Heck, we are not now even clearly showing that we are the Shepherd’s sheep.

Might be time to believe again.  But do we have it in us to be humble as we once were?

Shalom.

Warped Self-interest – No Democrat Senators on the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted in favor Mike Pompeo for Secretary of State.  They did so largely to deprive President Trump the person he wanted in that position.

Mr. Pompeo, a former Congressman and Director of the C.I.A., graduated first in his class at West Point and first in his class at Harvard Law School.  He has had both a successful military career and an excellent business career in which he started (as I recall) two successful businesses.

When you think that we have had recently both Hillary Clinton and John Kerry as Secretary of State (neither of them who achieved any particular success in their lifetime), it shows you that Democrats always put their own interests before the interests of the Nation and its people.  Shameful.

If there be any man who is not enlightened by the sublime magnificence of created things, he is blind.  If there be any man who is not aroused by the clamor of nature, he is deft.  If there be any one who, seeing all these works of God, does not praise him, he is dumb; if there be any one who, from so many signs, cannot perceive the First Principle, that man is foolish.  (Emphasis added.)

St. Bonaventure, in Intinerarium Mentis in Deum

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I am sure I live among disordered people – for each day I get up I am presented with evidence that we are surrounded by people who have absolutely no idea of nature, its immutable presence and the confides of its boundaries.

What do I mean?  I give and example: men are men and women are women –and while they share common characteristics they are not the same and are not interchangeable.  Each has their blessings, gifts, innate and unique talents and insights, and ways of seeing and being … and this is a beautiful thing.

When a culture loses an understanding and appreciation of nature, it loses its sanity and on the way to insanity it generates hostility and manufactures abject foolishness.

Need an illustration of the insanity?  Airlines are re-thinking the policy of allowing “comfort” animals on commercial passenger flights – because passengers are now bringing animals like small ponies as their “comfort” animals.  (Yes, this is true.)

In public policy matters, the “small pony” is exhibited by any number of iterations arising from feminism and homosexual advocacy.  Men and women are not meant to be “at war” and there is no such psychological designation as “homophobia.”  Notwithstanding that there is no such diagnostic category as “homophobia,” it has entered the public lexicon as if it is “a truth,” an actual psychological disorder.

This is a problem.  You see when nature is denied, truth is denied.  Consequentially, what flows is that which is unnatural and false.  Reality becomes unexamined fantasy.

If we have any particular group to “thank” for this is it people in the intellectual community who latch on to fantasy and ignore truth.  Their ideas now presented as mainstream suggest to me that rather than affording them the cap and gown of university achievement – consigning them to wear red bulbous nosed and large rubber feet seems more fitting.

The tragedy of denying nature is the tragedy of becoming less educated, less wise, less insightful, less truthful, less human, less stable and less sane.

We are, it seems, as St. Bonaventure says – blind, deaf, dumb and foolish.  Not a good development and one reason why I listen to few people and spend my time in nature, with cows, mountains, sky, and beauty.

Shalom.

Never Understood – The Democrats have filed a lawsuit claiming that the Russians, Wikileaks and members of the Trump campaign conspired to defeat the Democrat candidate in the last Presidential Election.

I have never understood their claim that Russians favored the Republican candidate over the Leftist Party’s candidate.  Let’s face it – the Democrat Party is the political party of the Left.  For heaven sakes, it had a Socialist seeking their Party’s nomination and their last President had a C.I.A. Director who voted for a Communist for President at one time.

How is it that the Party of the Left would be the Party that the Russians wished to get defeated?  What sense does that make?

 

Our cultural elites, the modern liberals, have contempt for democracy because it produces results and elects politicians they disapprove of.

Robert H. Bork, in Slouching Towards Gomorrah: Modern Liberalism and American Decline

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American liberals in their various iterations have diminished what we once possessed: a civil society whose public and private institutions reflected our common cultural inheritance – that of European Christendom.

The evidence of this runs the gambit from law and the judiciary, to family, morality, sexual mores, politics and political practices, university and secondary education, vehicles of mass communication, entertainment, the press and even some of our religious institutions.

The degeneracy that this brings is clear in so many ways – one being the image this weekend of former F.B.I. Director James Comey hawking his recent book.

Poor Mr. Comey.  He is want of personal understanding of himself.  Consistently his public utterances tell us: “something is wrong with this fellow.”

His actions only seem to confirm his disordered state and bolster the idea that he is the just result of modern liberalism’s own inbreeding.  Yes, the ideas of elites which bear little resemblance to that of the common man and woman are visible in many on the Left who assume public leadership and voice.

Here in Mr. Comey is a lawyer who while under oath in testimony given the Congress tells of appropriating government documents and leaking them to a Columbia law professor to share with The New York Times in order to get a “Special Counsel” appointed to investigate/delegitimize an elected President.

What lawyer would disclose his illegality and questionable objectives without any apparent recognition that he is describing his own lawlessness?

Likewise how could the head of the F.B.I. mismanage the Hillary Clinton national security mess so completely as to make it utterly clear to the public that “the fix” was in and the F.B.I. administrative cabal of Leftist political partisans surrounding Mr. Comey were far from pedigree conspirators or reasonably decent and honorable barristers?

In his actions and interviews, Mr. Comey offers himself as the poster child for the incoherence, corruption and incompetence that is the modern liberalism of the cultural and political elites wearing the “Democrat” label.

Toto, we are a long way from European Christendom, America as it once was, and from decency and wisdom.

Our restoration will evolve only insofar as we individually return to faith, have the courage to speak up, and to reject the poisonous fruit of modern liberalism.  Indeed, it has done sufficient damage as is.

Shalom.

 

 

Like every other human being, I am a splinter of the infinite deity … If the human [soul] is anything, it must be of unimaginable complexity … the only equivalent of the universe within is the universe without … as I reach this world through the medium of the body, so I reach that world through the medium of the psyche.

Carl Jung, M.D., in Memories, Dreams and Reflections

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Jung in describing the psyche is also conveying to us the nature of human health and wholeness whereby one lives not merely through the body but (and more critically) through the psyche as well.   Indeed, for Jung and other psychiatrists and learned people – a person is far from well (and prone to sickness and disorder) who lives within the body alone.

Looking about America in this age and time it is quite obvious that we are awash in disorder.  The social pathology is visible daily in news stories.  A state governor, despite being married, has a bizarre public sexual romp with his staff person, a man and woman beat their four year old child to death for spilling soup, a caretaker places a child in an oven to punish her … And the list goes on and on …

Are we not the only country that seeks tax revenue from drug use?  And look at the failure of custodial authorities (schools, social workers, police, teachers, principals) to attend to the obvious sickness and danger that Dylan Cruz plainly displayed and the pathetic social policies associated with that failure (the suppression of data on criminal conduct in Broward schools by the creation of “deversionary placements” so as NOT to have to face school violence done by “minority students” and the police officers unwilling to enter the building during the shooting for fear of running afoul of those who govern policy).

Let’s be honest – we live in a disordered culture, one in decline with manifestations of mental illness that simply go unacknowledged – denied, disguised, normalized or hidden.

In Jung’s words – we deny we are “a splinter of the infinite deity” and in that we starve the soul and ignore the psyche – the nexus between the world within and the world without (that which recognizes a mortal existence that is housed within eternal reality).

Yes, we are very poorly evolved and hence psychological problems, injuries and death abound.

We see these problems starkly in the ideas and actions of the political Left.  Indeed, having the lunatic Left present and active is like we are in foster care of Sarah and Cheryl Hart (the two lesbian mothers and “mates”) who drove their SUV off a California cliff into the Pacific Ocean 100 feet below with six helpless foster care (Black) children in the vehicle and to their collective death.

Any honest comment on American life, culture and society today must begin with an understanding that there is a great deal of mental illness that is unaddressed, dressed up as “normal,” excused, and tolerated despite the brutal costs that it imposes on others and the population at large.

We have drifted a long way from health and happiness and the decline is accelerating at a compounding rate.

That said, I offer you the words of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J. –

In the shadow of death may we not look back to the past, but seek in utter darkness the dawn of God.

Shalom.

Slow Saturday.  Quiet.  Cold, gray spring day.  Moisture in the air.  Solo cello in the background.  The cows have long ago today passed this way.

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… the … neurotic individual does try to escape the full awareness of his life task.  (Emphasis added.)

Viktor E. Frankl, M.D., in Man’s Search for Meaning

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I am aware of no public conversation that attempts to explain the disordered conduct of neurotics or psychotics on the loose and regularly visible in our mass communication and digitized secular culture.

Frankly, I find this both astonishing and quite dangerous. Imagine the number of talking heads on television daily who blabber along on this or that thing while offering absolutely no insight as to the topic they address.  Imagine, all the more seriously, that these people are listened to by a passive, uncritical, uninformed, poorly developed audience of millions every single day.

Then factor in this wrinkle: despite their training (or maybe because of it and a lack of human life experience) clerics are tasked with trying to share faith with others in a culture they do not know nor understand.

Think about it – our clerics have no training in intellectual history, cultural criticism, psychology, analytical psychiatry, the classics and such – nor have they (for the most part) experienced life in the working class, as a military combatant, raising a family, as a divorcee, overcoming an addiction, as one who is unemployed or whose job has been shipped overseas, or one who has lived in public housing – below the poverty line.

We are lost sheep – but not just lost – we cannot hear our Shepherds and some of them have no voice.

I give you a simple example of our serious deficit.  The above quote is intended to convey that the neurotic (captured by past human experience) avoids growth by being trapped in the injuries and experiences of the past.

Frankl tell us that the neurotic lives in “vicious cycle formations and feedback mechanisms” – that the neurotic is “self-centered” and in this forfeits all growth and all that is in the future yet to be experienced.  Does this NOT explain why ideologies and ideologues are to be avoided, ignored, discounted.  Their way is that of group and institutional neuroses.  Think radical feminism, the demands by the Left of rote conformity, groups fixated on “racism,” Left-wing “causes” of one variety or another – “social justice” crusaders, environmentalists, Marxists, etc. – taken to the extremes these people are neurotic: self-centered, playing the same “feedback loops” over and over and over.

Yes, there is widespread madness present in our culture and no one is identifying it.  On the  contrary we see these “feedback loops” offered us in daily talks shows – PBS, NPR, MSNBC, CNN and even on some of the Fox news shows. 

Yes, even our Shepherds have no voice, no insight.  Many are among the ranks of the neurotics – joined by our judges, op-ed writers, “entertainers,” late night TV hosts, political figures, and news people.

It is the First Century of Christianity once again.  Discipleship anyone?

Shalom.

… Christianity modeled a nobler way of life than what was on offer elsewhere in the rather brutal society of the day.  In Christianity, women were respected as they weren’t in classical culture and played a critical role in bringing men to the faith and attracting converts.  In the age of the plagues, the readiness of Christians to care for all the sick, not just their own, was a factor, as was the impressive witness to faith of countless martyrs …

George Weigel, in “The Easter Effect,” (The Wall Street Journal, March 31-April 1, 2018

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In these words Mr. Weigel is recounting how it was that Roman Emperor Constantine ended all state sanctions against Christians who heretofore were considered a danger to the ruling powers, outlaws of sorts.

In these words Weigel shows that the way Christians lived propelled their growth in Rome and across the lands to the East.  These early Christians showed others a nobler way to live, a way to live that provided meaning, access to purpose and promise, and joy as well.  This Christianity gave those who believed hope and a context in which one might live with optimism.  This Christianity offered a moral code and a way to an ordered life.

Christianity offers no less today.  But alas Christians are suspect in our land today and more to the point Christianity’s moral understandings are being dislodged from our culture.

In place of Christian moral values, we have not value-relative but valueidiosyncratic.  Each individual gets to be his own author of moral conduct.  The chaos that ensues is inexhaustible.

A little, insignificant waif (U.S. Army enlisted clerk) Bradley Manning gets to disclose troves of top secret material at will and is pardoned by a clueless President for whom both Christianity and the heritage of the West seem utterly alien.  Additionally, Edward Snowden, a contract security specialist, does the same thing and flees to Russia where he remains today with no efforts to secure his return to face the consequences of his criminal, treasonous conduct.

In contrast to the elevated place of women in early Christianity today we have the residuals of Sex in the City women – droves of women of all shapes and sizes that place their identity in sexuality and their clutch for power (that is, political in particular or mere public identity that has as to celebrity and mass communication an impact that comes not from any achievement but from having a familiar, fabricated image).

This, of course, is far enough afield from women in Constantine’s time – that it now befalls to men to model Christian values to others in a time and culture that holds men responsible for all the evils of the world (while still expecting them to lay down their lives in defense of others).

So here is “the bottom line” for us today – good and decent men and women who seek to parent children who will be immune from the ugliness of today’s culture must do and be as the early Christians  – must live by the code of conduct and morals of their early ancestors.  Failing that, further chaos and decline is predictable.  Such an ordeal hardly seems what parents and elders like me would wish for any man, woman or child.

Are you not so called?  Or do you wish to be the ones who watched as Christianity faded from view?

Shalom.

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