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There are people alive today who may live to see the effective death of Christianity within our civilization.

Hostile secular nihilism has won the day in our nation’s government, and the culture has turned powerfully against traditional Christians.

American Christians are going to have to come to terms with the brute fact that we live in a culture … in which our beliefs make increasingly little sense (to others).

Rod Dreher, in The Benedict Option

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Dreher’s short, readable book will tell you better than others I have read (and I have read many) what we live today in a culture that is changing/eroding at a rapid and disconcerting clip.  Yes, a book to be read not once but several times – and referred to often.

For parents and grandparents who desire that their children and grandchildren be safe, stable and sane amid the hellish chaos of our disintegrating culture – this is a “must read.”

As the quotes above suggest, we are moving away from religious narrative and the underpinnings of America as it was created by our Founders.  This puts us adrift, at sea without a point of reference … without a necessary backdrop that affords a context in which to endure hardship, evil, death, betrayal, loss, disappointment, etc. – of a mortal life.

Frankly, it is simply impossible to live without an overriding wisdom narrative – and, yet we are abandoning our narrative in the face of pressure and hostility from the godless ones (hostile secular nihilists) up and down the social and political ladder.  Such is the way of pridefulness and ignorance.

The loss of a wisdom narrative leaves each to drift without guidance.  The loss places an impossible burden on the individual to create meaning out of their meager experience.

How foolish to think you can write your own narrative while you live it day by day.  Such behavior ignores the treasured records of human existence passed on for centuries.

The costs of this abandonment for the individual and the culture pile up: suicides, homicides, drug addiction, depression, insanity, aborted children, obesity, alcoholism, broken families, lost love, dependency, racial conflict, disorientation, lethargy, despair, confusion, the absence of hope – confidence and faith, of courage and optimism – intimacy, warmth, peace, laughter – human existence, itself.

As Dreher points out Christians are at a crossroad – Christ or no Christ.

So what is it?  Soul or self?  Death and despair without God, or life with God.

Shalom.

 

God became man to turn creatures into sons: not simply to produce better men of the old kind but to produce a new kind of man. (Emphasis added.)

C. S. Lewis, in Mere Christianity

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Such an interesting thought, clearly stated.  The stakes in a Christian life are not to be simply nice, or to conform to the rubric of the practices of religion – but rather to live as the children of God.  In that alone is redemption.

It is not enough to be nice, nor is it to live nicely behind closed doors while the world around you collapses.  A sequestered life is not sufficient for a Christian.

Look around you, we live in a culture that more and more resembles Sodom and Gomorrah.  New York City has a public hotel that encourages residents to engage in all sorts of sexual activity in plain view to their neighbors in surrounding apartments. Their mayor shelters nude women who solicit cash donations from tourists in Time Square. His justification?  The women are undocumented aliens and New York is a sanctuary city.

Chicago is a killing field.  The City of Angels (Los Angeles) is for the most part a shambles with widespread poverty and homelessness.  And we bar mention of God in public places.  How sick is this!

What is your responsibility?  What side of the divide are you on?

Shalom.

God, bring us to our senses.  Give us the courage to speak out.

 

What I want to fix your attention on is the vast, overall movement towards the discrediting, and finally the elimination, of every kind of human excellence – moral, cultural, social, or intellectual.

C. S. Lewis, in The Screwtape Letters

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This, of course, is Satan speaking to his nephew in the The Screwtape Letters.

Satan goes on to describe how democracy levels all excellence, converts all to mediocrity or worse – enslavement.  In Satan’s world “no pre-eminence” is allowed, no one in the mass can be wiser than the mass.  Satan’s plan is “dumb everyone down.”

Well, welcome to the world of the American Left.  To the Obama national health “care” disaster. To the world of present day academics, the world of American socialism, the public school system, the federal government, the bureaucrat, the regulator, the “social engineers,” the “thought police” of this or that misguided “cause.”

In a degraded society, there is no excellence.  God’s gifts, like God, are unwelcomed, denied. Equality becomes a hammer, not a metaphysical state of being.  In such a state of being, democracy can do the work of the tyrant.  So says Satan in The Screwtape Letters.

It is sadly plain that much of what Screwtape said visits us today and few, so very few, among us are well-enough educated and devoted sufficiently to the mystery of God and Lady Wisdom to see what has been amply described in multiple sources over the ages.

We are hideously reduced.  Listening to whatever is the mass dialogue only makes matters worse.  Time to live wisely, to live in faith, to live with God.

We live in a moment when each Believer is called to know, and to speak and to reorient our present disastrous course.  Yes, we will have to speak truth when it is most dangerous to do so.

Shalom.

I am the way, the truth and the life.

Jn 14:6

 

 

 

… the ‘natural’ hierarchy of species no longer applies.

Andrzej Franaszek, in Milosz

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Franaszek is describing the world seen by the narrator in Czeslaw Milosz’s poem A Poor Christian Looks at the Ghetto.  In the poem Milosz is writing about the liquidation of the inhabitants in the Warsaw Ghetto by the Nazis in May 1943.

Yes, we have known a condition in which “the ‘natural’ hierarchy of the species no longer applies.”  You could say we are in such a time, or on its cusp.

I think of the Middle East and Syria, of ISIS, the destruction caused by the ill-conceived “Arab Spring,” terrorism exported to the West, the dismemberment of Venezuela, the eradication of national boundaries and nationhood itself, North Korea, and the exile of faith, religion and God in secular culture.  But I also think of the hyper-political hostility here on our shores: among the Left, the media, the press, and various leftist groups and special pleaders none of whom seem versed in history and its wise lessons.

Natural hierarchies collapse when metaphysical inquiry is lost for when it is lost so too is morality, and meaning, and virtue, and value, wisdom and compassion, community – indeed, humanity itself.

Sadly we face this on other shores and within this country.  It is most present in what now presents as the Democrat Party, the media, academia and popular mass culture.

You can see in today, the world that Milosz saw and experienced along with Koestler, Orwell, T.S. Eliot, Beckett, Solzhenitsyn and others.

A world without metaphysics is a world with but one leafless tree.

Shalom.

 

… He is before all things and in Him all things hold together.

Col 1:17

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These are the words of St. Paul in his Letter to the Colossians.  Think for a moment about what St. Paul is saying.  He is telling us that we live in God, that we have our being in Him.

Think too about today and how we operate each day.  Do you think in all that you do that you are acting within God’s ambit, framework or are you acting without any thought of what St. Paul is saying?

Think too about the discomfort you might feel in being so responsible for success in a world in which no one feels that they are immersed in God’s dominion, but rather each is alone to navigate all of life’s twists and turns, misfortunes, accidents and mistakes.

In St. Paul’s view one is never so at risk, so apt to be plagued by anxiety or fear, self-doubt or confusion.  In his view, life is easier to negotiate, faith is implicit in one’s disposition and outlook.  Are we not a far cry from that peace and certainty today?  Would it not make sense to restore St. Paul’s view to your life?  Why suffer as you do?

In St. Paul’s view we live and think and experience in a complete way, in a manner that brings us closer to our base identity: that of spiritual beings.

Think about it: your tranquility is simply a matter of adopting a point of view that gives you peace.  In a culture and age that does not understand the relationship between God and the human person, chaos flourishes and its costs are tragic but unnecessary.  This need not be the case, and surely not for you or your children.

Shalom.

 

This concludes the last in a series of posts on conversion.  This series has been offered to you so that you might see the manner in which conversion can appear to you in the present day and circumstance.  We are in need of restoration. Politics and the Left have led us astray, created deep division and godlessness, despair.  You can learn from Whittaker Chambers journey.

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… I tried to pray, it was as if the spirit from my boyhood … took my hand and knelt and prayed beside me, so that in the act of seeking oneness with God, I became one with myself(Emphasis added.)

Whittaker Chambers, in Witness

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Chambers had tried to pray as a boy and was unsuccessful.  Yet, when he needed God most – in his most desperate hours, when his world organized around the Communist narrative no longer held, … God guided him to prayer.

As Chambers writes “The secret springs of life, which had been lost so long in the desert of modernityjoined with impulses, broke free and flowed unchecked.” (Emphasis added.)

He records that the two mirages: one, of the Almighty Mind and the other, the Communist political fiction that man has the power to plan and execute human salvation – were illusions which had dragged him into the desert.

His daily prayer, he reports, “tore through (him) … a transformation with the force of a river … (and he) became what (he) was … (as he) ceased to be what he was not.” (Emphasis added.)

Yes, this is conversion!

As Chambers writes “the whole web of the materialist modern mind” fell.  No longer, he writes, did modernity and its rationalism cover “the spirit of man,” thwart “the instinct of his soul for God.”  He saw in this conversion that it was a “myth” to think of “man’s material perfectibility” which, he saw, as the “modern intellectual mood which gives rise to Communism” and, by implication, man’s sick fixation on all things “political.”

In his illumination, Chambers claimed the truth of this axiom:

“Man cannot organize the world for himself without God; without God man can only organize the world against man.” (Emphasis added.)

This Dear Friends is conversion.  This Dear Friends is our state today.  This Dear Friends identifies the nonsensical babble of the transgender crowd, the feminists, the abortionists, the pagans, the anarchists, the Democrat Left, the “progressives,” “the social engineers,” the morally vacuous academics and college administrators, the “open border” fools, those who demand endless “entitlements” and “safe spaces,” those who attack and diminish the place of faith in civic life and discourse, etc.

We have been led into the desert of hyper-political secularism and the idea that the human person can create salvation.

It is time to come to the sacred springs of Truth. Absent that: disintegration and disaster.

Think about this.  It is vitally important for you and this Nation to do so.

Shalom.

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.

God created man in His own image … male and female He created them.

 Gen. 1:27

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As you know this blog seeks to explore the place of faith in contemporary secular culture. In doing so, I look out the window of my small cottage onto the world and I often comment on the antics and misdeeds of modern culture and the people who populate it.

Yes, this makes for harsh language, for the actions of the modern secular person and their organizations are far, far from the image of God.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that abortions are legal and constitutionally protected, nearly 60 million unborn children have been killed.  Hardly seems like the majority of the Court in Roe v. Wade could have acted as if they were made in God’s image.  Ditto – abortion advocates – especially feminists for whom the life of a child gives way to their own desires. Made in God’s image?  If judged by their actions, No.

So how does one explain this departure from the essence of God’s creation of man and woman?

The answer is in the tree.  The tree?  Yes, the tree.

The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.” (Gen 2:16-17)

Yes, many among us have elected what can be fairly judged as evil and made a place for their views in this land.  Yes, judges, and those who would be mothers, and politicians and multiple self-serving advocates would seem to have furthered evil, institutionalized it..  That is America today.  That is the product of godless secularism, the Democrat Left, of the Marxists parading at “progressives.”

This is the view from my cottage window, and why I write as I do … and why I so often close the shutters of my window – so I might live free of evil, and its carnage, and absurdity and its lies, its anger and hostility, and its advocates in robes and in plain clothes.

Finally, make no mistake – to be made in God’s image requires we choose good – not evil. To do otherwise is to take the gift of our life and deny God.

Further, such evil as we pursue, multiplies evil.  Today, we see it in the destruction of marriage, the attacks on this Nation and its borders, the distorted appetites of fallen people marshalled into protected legal status – as if these appetites are want of a God who seeks that we choose what is good and pure.

Our task?  Return to God, or live with the shutters closed.

Shalom.

In those first years the roads were peopled with refugees shrouded up in their clothing … Creedless shells … tottering down the causeways like migrants in a feverland.  (Emphasis added.)

Cormac McCarthy, in The Road

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We live in a time of cultural crisis.  We are creedless.  Without a guiding story and the lessons such stories have provided over the ages.  The overarching narrative for centuries past imparted meaning, gave purpose and direction and identity, situated one on the map and within human history – a place in the sacred story of being.

Now we creedless shells.  And we are not just lost, but rather spinning in disorder and an immaturity that extends to people in their heretofore mature years.  Gray haired snowflakes, fear-filled idiots.  They populate, and seem even more present in mass media and within the celebrity status so cheaply bestowed on all measure of ill-informed moron whose face is projected on a screen or television.

The stories of various cultures over recorded human history have often included a hero who dies only to return from the netherworld to lead others to a good and ordered life of human meaning and fullness.  From this, the mortals become Creedal People – believers, those with an ordered existence, people who live in confidence, with purpose, in joy, with courage, intimately, in community, without fear, with understanding, and insight, and wisdom.  Think of the Christ story.  Ah, but now we reject Christ and the Christian story.  Indeed public mention is unwelcome.  Bigots shout Believers down and wimpish, little officials defer to the ignorant ones.

Rejecting the Christian story what takes its place, and what are the consequences?  Just look at contemporary American culture and see the small-scale, self-serving nitwit narratives that divide and destroy.  What are they?

I am woman, hear me roar.  Yes, the story of woman always short-changed and their need for status and superiority.  The “war on women” – its flipside: men are the problem – and more particularly White men.  Goodbye, amore – hello women obesity … and the war on men.   Division grows.

Religion is exiled – no prayer in public places, no trace of Judeo-Christian narrative in the civic square – unbelief the way for today.

The primacy of politics.  Nothing matters but politics and all things are political. Public toilet use becomes a “civil rights” issue, the nation has a “criminal past’ – so its borders do not matter, the country must be dissolved from within.

Family is destroyed.  Gender does not matter.  It is “redefined” to fit one’s fetish. In its place John and Bill, Jane and Betty – transgendered little Billy.  Child sacrifice is resurrected after centuries of sanity … and its efforts protected and publically funded. And no one sees anything unusual about this.  The fabrication of homophobia becomes an “illness.”

Race relations go sour – a fine by-product of the Civil Rights era, and Black racism has its public figures.  Tables turn and fellowship is dampened.

Christ is dispatched.  Children become snowflakes – unable to live life as it presents itself.

The liberal and others mimic Marxism and think they are “just grand.”  Dependent citizens grow as does taxpayer-supported-welfare for the “do-good” organizations.

The environment matters more than the human person and far more than the unborn child.  We have become less a nation, and more comprised of angry and discontented fools – migrants in a feverland.

Shalom.

… God is pure life, and we are terrified of such life because we cannot hold it or possess it, and we do not know what it will do to us.

Alan Watts, in Behold the Spirit

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As a former vowed Catholic Brother with a graduate degree in theology from the University of Notre Dame and a focus on living faith in secular culture, and a long career as a lawyer, I am often asked by others: How is it that people claim to be religious and Catholic yet show little more than a rote or superficial sign of faith?

The question is meant to ask: How come these people do not live at a greater depth?  That they can endorse public policy like abortion that the Church most surely opposes?

The basic question, I suppose, is this: Why don’t people live more faithfully?

Alan Watts has the answer just about right, in my view.

People tend to hold onto their life with a death grip.  There is, in this, a reluctance to trust God.  They fear falling “into the hands of the living God.”  Faith, you see, is a matter of trust and people would rather trust themselves than God or anyone else.

Of course, this is a most fragile and strenuous way to live.  Imagine having to be “in-charge” of all that will come your way!  Imagine buying into the fiction that this is even remotely possible.  By the way, as one who has had a lifelong interest in and made a study of politics in its many iterations, I can tell you without hesitation that “progressives” (i.e., Communists) fancy government control of all aspects of life and do so in lieu of faith.  What I am saying, as one who studies faith in secular culture, is this: no God, and government fills the void; and that in this, religion and liberty are banished and central control over all aspects of life are, in time, placed in the hands of a few “true (godless) believers.”

Perhaps, you see more clearly why retaining “In God We Trust” on our currency might matter … and might be opposed.

Abandon God and the nightmare begins in earnest.

Shalom.

Observation – Lies are common to human existence, but don’t forget the Left (communism) is built in a lie and all its iterations share that foundation.  Faith, of course, deals in Sacred Truth.  Ever wonder why the Left so intentionally attacks and excludes religion?  Pray in public and see what response you get.  Remember, religious freedom is a fundamentally protected right under the U.S. Constitution.

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