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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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Every baptized Christian is obliged by baptismal promises to renounce sin and to give himself completely, without compromise, to Christ, in order that he may fulfill his vocation, save his soul, enter the mystery of God, and there find himself perfectlyin the light of Christ.”  (Emphasis added.)

Thomas Merton, in Life and Holiness

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When you look and observe all sorts of disordered behavior, hostility, division and antagonism – you might ask: How can this be, we were once a united nation and when we disagreed we did so in a civil and respectable manner – a way that did not make us enemies?

Now if you are a Christian, the above words of Thomas Merton might help you understand why we are where we are, and how we might restore what we once knew and enjoyed.

The “how?”  We have forget the gifts of our baptism.  We forget the extraordinary significance of being one with Christ, being a Christian.  Having forgotten our legacy and its inheritance, we reverted to self and selfishness – to godlessness – a life without Christ at the center of our being.

For a Christian, our separation from Christ is a guarantee for calamity, disintegration, division, antagonism, hostility, unhappiness, sin and destruction of all that is good.  Abiding by our Baptismal gifts – we prosper, find strength and happiness – build friendship, family and community – and know joy and humility and courage.

Yes, in baptism we are “called out of darkness.”  In its neglect we court darkness – and see it surround us today.  Ah, but you can change that!!!

Shalom.

 

 

 

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.

 

… that all of them may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I am in You.  May they also be in us …  (Emphasis added.)

Jn 17:21

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In the recent four or five years in traveling across the country and in my daily public activities like shopping, I have had the privilege of meeting and talking to a good number of African-Americans – mostly men.  The conversations have always been cordial – actually wonderful, warm, joyful and a real blessing.

In each of the conversations I am referring to, I have offered and observation which has been universally and warming accepted.  My observation?  It is this: I say to the man with whom I have shared kind words and some laughter – this simple thing: “You know, for the life of me, I cannot understand why it is that others are intent on turning us against one another.  If I or you were drowning and someone threw us a rope that saved our life, would we ever care what their race, or religion, or ethic heritage was?”  Not one of my conversation partners ever responded other than this way: “You are so right, I am sick of the division.”

” … that all of them may be one, as You, Father, are in me, and I am in You …”

Look, we have one critical responsibility and that is to be one as the Father and Son are one.

That said, ask yourself as you listen to those whose words are presented in public discourse – Does this man or woman divide us?  Or do their word bring us together?

I pray that we all start to apply these two questions to all who speak to us.

We will die by division – just as we will live and prosper only as one.

If you doubt this, think of this one thing.  In the Genesis story God provides man a companion – a woman because it is not good that man be alone.  Friends, could this be any plainer?  Men and women are clearly different and yet we are made whole by one another.  Does God not make this plain as day?  You know the answer.  Let’s live this reality, this truth.  One.  One.  One.

Dear God, help us see that we are one, meant to be one – help us turn from those who would divide us, create hostility for their own dubious benefit.  Amen.

Shalom.

If this message makes any sense to you, please share it with others.  We really are in this life together.  We own the problems we have and we have a way out of the troubles we had created.  Let’s get busy being one.

Civility means a great deal more than just being nice to one another.  It is complex and encompasses learning how to connect successfully and live well with others, developing and fostering effective selfexpression and communication.  Civility includes courtesy, politeness, mutual respect, fairness, good manners as well as a matter of good health.  (Emphasis added.)

P. M. Forni, in Choosing Civility

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One reason I have come to the open space of the country is this: the disordered nature of people is, at the least, disquieting and often so distasteful that one risks being sucked into useless conflict with the immature and uninformed.

Unpleasant conversations with fools has never been a favorite pastime with me.

Yet, today the public discourse is so poor that I have turned away from anything but a glancing pass over the “news of the day.”

We have hit a new low with female Senators swearing in public, and entertainment celebrities crudely voicing in tantum-like manner their profanity laden dislike of party A or policy B – as if anyone really cares what they have to say.

Not-so-astonishingly, the cable and network “news” people, like lemmings, fall right into line – mimicking the ill-bred and poorly educated actions and views of the foul-mouthed celebrity.  Of course, the crass conduct of Leftist advocates makes matters all the worse as to civil discourse.

As to the latter point, the destructive objectives of the Leftist advocates is patently clear when they “game” the system by offering this or that feigned outrage simply to get their own way.  No civil discourse there.  It is all the aim for power.  And that means always – an idiotic and destructive policy turn in which faith in democracy and civil discussion are both lost.  Indeed we are at that juncture now.  

I am often surprised that those who push an ideological agenda have not met with forceful response.  Knowing human nature, I suspect that relative passivity may not sustain.

These are unpleasant times.  Civility is lost, and democracy and community are on the wane.  We listen to those we ought to ignore.

Shalom.

Trust – Trust is a funny thing.  There are not a whole lot of people in your life that you can trust for the entire length of your life.  More people jump ship than stay the course.  That’s just people.  Most seek an advantage or cannot sustain the exactness required for a trusted friendship.

A long term trust-relationship requires complete honesty and that means honest self-reflection and continual growth.  There are more people who cannot meet the terms of a trusted relationship than can meet those terms.  Cherish the trusted relationships you have … do not expect to have a great number of them.  Indeed, does this not underscore the place of a faith narrative, God as we have come to know the idea of God?  When all else fails – you and God can do wonderful things together.  Imagine me painting or writing – is that not God and me in a state of trust?

 

 

A really efficient totalitarian state would be one in which the all-powerful executive of political bosses and their army of managers control a population of slaves who do not have to be coerced because they love the servitude.

Aldous Huxley, in Brave New World

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This describes the trajectory of the Liberal Left in America from FDR to the last administration … and it surely describes the vocal activists on the Left and their lemmings in elected office, in the judiciary, in education, the media, and those running government agencies, departments and bureaus.

We have witnessed what Huxley identified.

The tension today is between totalitarians and those who embrace freedom and welcome individual responsibility.  This is a serious division.

Religion figures into this rather substantially as those who favor freedom and individual responsibility arise from a religious ethos that stands for both freedom and individual responsibility.  Yes, one side sees the person as a sacred being and the other sees such notions as an obstacle to power and control.  The former thinks of others as substantive and the latter thinks of them as a bridge to power.

We meet today a very fundamental conflict.  One can be concerned by this: those in significant places in the society have been led to an ideology that does not value the propositions and beliefs which our Founders cherished so.

Shalom.

Democrats and Children – Astonishing.  The Democrats have a new-found passion for children.  They cannot stand to see children at the border separated from their parents as law may require (in some cases).  Yet, as to unborn children they have no emotions, it seems, otherwise abortion would be rare now that conception is widely and easily available.  Their “sincerity” did not motivate the Senators and Congressmen to do a darn thing to correct the situation.  You see they prefer government by the fiat of Presidential Executive Order – that way they never have to be on record as to the hard issues we face and they can sit on their fannies, count their money, and complain endlessly.  Lest you see this clearly, this is the totalitarianism which Huxley saw coming.

That millions of people share the same form of mental pathology does not make  people sane.

Erich Fromm, in The Sane Society

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It is a little ironic for me to utilize the words of a Left-leaning secular humanist like Fromm but – assuming his words have merit, accuracy and hence a quality of timelessness such that they can be invoked in any era – it seems to me they offer an opportunity for today.

The opportunity?  The opportunity to ask of ourselves in the West and in the United States if some of our prominent ideas and their political advocacy conveys what is ill or what is well.

I think of abortion.  I think of children born to women who are not married.  I think of the collectivist nature of liberal orthodoxy, “borderless” borders, the application of equality that seems to shun individual responsibility and the recognition that people are of vastly different capabilities and drives, a disdain for police officers, a dismissal of religion, the reverence afforded the celebrity – the people in visual media, in the press … and such.  The list could go on.

On many fronts, it is reasonable to ask – Are these common acclamations contributing to sanity or insanity?  Do we look like a healthy or ill society?  Have we put the propositions of the Left to this test?  Fromm himself would ask this.  One wonders why we do not.

Yet for example, that a bundle of people think that there are endless numbers of “genders” neither makes it so, nor makes it sane.

My point is Fromm’s point – a collection of people saying or doing the same thing makes what is said or done neither true nor healthy, per se.  Time to put advocacy and ideology to the test.  Good for us?  Healthy?  Destructive?  Foolish?  Sane?

One wrong idea can make a whole people sick.  Destroy harmony and community, a nation, even.

And the whole multitude sought to touch him; for there went virtue out of him and healed them.

Lk 6:19

Yes, it is virtue that is the measure.  Life seeks the advancement of virtue and the health and fulfillment of the whole person.

Shalom.

It is the religious impulse that which supplies the cohesive force which unifies society and a culture.  Great civilizations of the world do not produce the great religions as a kind of by-product; in a very real sense, the great religions are the foundation on which great civilizations rest.  (Emphasis added.)

Christopher Dawson, in The Quarterly Review

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We face today a fundamental disagreement and division.  On the one side are the socialists who have little or no regard for religion, but great regard of the state and man’s ability to solve all problems, act equitably, and form a functioning, “free” public union.

On the other side, we have those who, if only by instinct, believe that man alone is not capable of forming a perfect or working union which honors individual freedom as bestowed on us by God and codified in the  U.S. Constitution.

The former group winches when Constitutional protections are afforded the individual rights “at the expense” of state power.  Their disposition as to the state virtually insures centralized power and the need to conform the individual to the tenets of the state – in all matters to which the state lays claim.  As such, socialism’s great cost is one’s liberty and in that cost Judaism and Christianity are shelved, discounted and their believers relegated to relative silence – left to live their faith privately and out of the way of the state.

This is pretty much where we are today in our body politic.

This state of affairs, of course, poses a very serious challenge to the Constitution and the vision of our Founders (who were strongly influenced by the rightful place of faith in the formation of this Nation).  The Founders were very much in tune with Dawson’s above observation.  The question however stands now as this: Are we in accord with Dawson or shall we enter the state of being that reduces the human person, limits his and her liberty and is inclined to totalitarianism, economic destruction and permanent class division?

Shalom.

Without a life of the spirit our whole existence becomes unsubstantial and illusory.  The life of the spirit, by integrating us in the real order established by God, puts us in the fullest possible reality – not as we imagine it, but as it really is.

Thomas Merton, in No Man is an Island

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I am sure if you look about you see as many do that people have become difficult, coarse and quite narcissistic – self-centered.  Likewise you see, like others, hostility and incoherence – just look at the news and the unimaginable crimes – a woman kills her infant child and hides the body, a mass shooting of innocents by a troubled young man.

There are, alarmingly, many signs of disorder – individuals whose behavior and utterances indicate they are “lost,” disoriented, without sensible purpose or direction.  Just look at addictions and the vast spread of drug use – broken families, illegitimate births, killing unborn children in the womb, violent crime.

These things do not arise all by themselves.  They are a manifestation of a life without any spiritual context, that is a life of illusion, life without substance – or meaning … and aimless, a life that is destructive of self and others.

In such circumstances reality, sanity, health, stability, relationships, contentment, and nation are lost to us.

You look and see the problems growing and see in others behavior that gives you caution, concern and seeks that you keep your distance and be on guard?  All of this is attributed to but one thing: No God.

All of course is made worse by the ignorance of those in media who are as lost as anyone, and by politicians on the Left who manifest some of the same traits and many ideas that are void of wisdom – but do us harm, and further chaos.  The Left discounts God and the essential nature of spiritual life and all that it propounds — –  their work and words are simply the product of their self-deception and their narcissism.

God identifies the order of things.  Deny this and life and nations disintegrate rather rapidly.  Better return to the beginning.

Shalom.

“God resisteth the proud.”

Ja 6: 6

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The costs of pride are substantial.  The prideful are not careful.  They become lax and costly mistakes follow.  The prideful in leadership pave the way for a nation’s demise.

When those in leadership positions are prideful you can expect giant mistakes that are costly to all who are subject to their actions.  Yes, pride leads to lawlessness.

We see the obvious destructive consequences of prideful, partisan Leftist bureaucrats in the fiasco that has been the government handling of the Hillary Clinton national security breach, and we see it in the lawless “weaponizing” for the law enforcement and national security apparatus of the federal government against candidate and now President Donald Trump.  Yes, pride can excuse those who put us to risk, destroy the innocent, the rule of law, liberty and a nation.

How can pride be so costly?

Pride robs God of the glory due Him.  Pride makes of God – an exile, an enemy.  It creates a vast distance between God and the human being.  In that distance grace disappears.

The prideful are isolates from God, others and self.  They destroy community.

As leaders, the prideful make us strangers or enemies to one another.  Nothing destroys a person or a nation like pride.  It is toxic; it is corrosive.  It divides.  It kills the soul and the person.  It stokes the fire of envy and hatred.

And pride’s remedy?  The humble recognition that God is the author of all that is good – and we are merely recipients (not the source) of all the good that we might do, or that we might experience.

For a guide to daily humility and a protection from the evil that is pride, I offer this from St. Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor 4:7) –

” … whether you eat or drink, or whatsoever else you do, do all to the glory of God.” 

Individually, and in the aggregate, we MUST humbly return to God, or we shall perish by our own hand.

Shalom.

 

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