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Our culture has lost any clearly defined spiritual standards and aims, and our cultural values have become impoverished.

Christopher Dawson, in The Judgment of the Nations

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Dawson wrote this in a book published in 1942, when World War II was in full bloom. Three years earlier T. S. Eliot took the view that we faced the choice between a Christian culture or a pagan culture.

The question of culture and our well-being has been with us for eight or nine decades.  Yet, isn’t it odd that those occupying space in the public square speak with no particular appreciation for what Dawson and Eliot and many others (to wit: Reinhold Niebuhr, Jean Danielou, Romano Guardini, Nicholas Berdyaev, Paul Tillich, et al) saw as the problem we faced in the West – namely, the disintegration of our culture.

I write about faith and culture and by necessity must address the words, thoughts, actions and inertia of those who command places in the public square.  Yes, I see a mix of theology, culture, history, religion, public policy, law, psychology, philosophy and literature as required to understand who we are today, what risk we run, what wrong turns we have made, and are making, what is lost, derided, discarded and abused by those who have our attention.

The ignorance of those in the public square is monstrous and embarrassing.  Political people alleging that a border wall is immoral while abortion is not as but one example.  Astonishing.  Simply, astonishing.  So many who speak with “certainty” minus doubt or evidence of serious inquiry.

What is my bottom line?

Throughout the centuries we have understood that faith grounds observation. 

No less a man than Albert Einstein offered this to validate the place of faith in intellectual inquiry and life – “God does not play dice” – i.e., mathematicians might say “Both God and the Pythagorean theorem … are believed to exist independent of the physical world; and both give it meaning.”

Faith is a necessary ingredient in human life, community, culture, peaceful existence, civility, full human development, human progress, knowledge, contentment, health, prosperity, intellectual growth and wisdom … and it is the absence of faith that generates the bulk of discord, abhorrent behavior, destruction, division, disorder, violence and hostility in our culture and that of the West today.

If a scholar have not faith, how shall he take a firm hold of things.

Mencius, 371-288 B.C.

The same can be said of citizens and those who claim to lead.

Shalom.

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Living in a world of secular time … the older awareness of higher time has receded … the best way to try to grasp the change in time experience is in terms of alternations in our understanding of order …

Charles Taylor, in A Secular Age

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Taylor is making a vital point that is often overlooked and it is this – when cultures change the nature of human experience also changes and, mind you, those changes cannot be considered as always beneficial to humans and their experience as humans.  Indeed, those changes might well accrue to the individual and collective detriment of the human person, their life and community.

To make his point as to secular time and its distinction with time as previously considered he notes that once the idea of a King’s Two Bodies (divine and mortal) was easily accepted and conveyed in some sense as an eternal reality.  Now, Taylor notes, this idea in a secular age is considered odd.

Likewise, he recalls that there was a time in Europe where each year in small villages one day a year the villagers would change titles, duties, attire, roles and authority.  This was Carnival and its disposition implicitly looked at time and order and status differently than we do today.  His point?  Order and time were once seen in ways we do not see either now.  Carnival was a reminder that we are sacred beings in a sacred order.

Well, so what?

Taylor goes on to make the point that today “nations, states and churches” are not seen in the same regard as they once were.  These entities no longer provide the meaning and identity that they once did and no longer connect us to a “Great Chain of Being.”

When cultures change (not always for the better, for sure) ideas like the value of a nation and its citizenship can be changed to a degree that neither borders nor nations or the documents or authorities that provide legal protection to the individual are any longer valued or protected.  This may help explain the seeming insanity of many who discount the worth of America, the nation state, religion, borders, and the privilege of being an American citizen or part of Western Civilization.  Make no mistake the West is in a pickle with elites choosing to honor global organizations and rule over national autonomy.

What to conclude?  Listen carefully to those who purpose “change” for none of those who I have seen have any intellectual, social or psychology depth to suggest that they can improve on what we have.  Rather they seem destined to create chaos on the way to total destruction.  

If you doubt how quickly things can “go South” just look at Venezuela where national poverty and social, economic and spiritual deconstruction have ushered in a dark and dangerous time in a once wealthy and educated society.

When those who advocate change drive with their eyes closed.  Death and damage ensue.

Shalom.

Postscript – When a culture entertains ideas like “one need not have borders” or “aborting a child is a ‘choice” the culture has already changed radically and not for the best. When language has changed so radically that fundamental concepts are challenged in ways that deviate from long standing norms – one has to beware of the cultural deconstruction that is underway.  Yes, we can see the culture and the nation decompose.

Beautiful Sunny Day in the Mountains.  All is quiet.

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Father in heaven, creator of all … Teach us the value of human love, show us the value of family life, and help us live in peace with all men that we may share in your life for ever.

A Portion of a Prayer from Morning Prayer for the days following Christmas.

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Do you wish one easy way to improve on the culture we now have?  Think about the above.  “Teach us the value of human love.”  “Show us the value of family life.”  “Living in peace with all men.”

It begins with love, does it not?  But what do you know of love?  More importantly – what does your culture seem to know about love?

Oh, in this culture we are swamped with sex and sexuality – but that is NOT love.

Think about the advocates focused on sexuality.  You find them in multiple voices but all focus on sexuality and sexual pleasure – and frankly focused on their self-centered desires.  How else can you define the killing of an unborn child as a “choice?”  How else can we waste time talking about “multiple genders” – something of utter nonsense?  Or how can same-sex “marriage” be the equal of Holy Matrimony?  In all these things we have been reduced to those who live far from love as it is meant to be known among human beings.

What of the “value of family?”  How can we have no-fault-divorce?  So many adulteries?  Mothers walking away from children?  Teen mothers?  Fatherless families?  Men who flee their responsibilities as fathers?

And as to peace with all men – how can we be goaded into divisions based on gender (male and female), based on race, religion, ethnicity?  How can we let peace be taken from us by divisions that are exploited for selfish political reasons all of which sow seeds of conflict and say to us: “I divide so I might rule over you?”

God rules, man does not … and those men and women who assert their leadership over us with ideas that shame God and what is good and holy ought to be dismissed promptly for their ignorance.

Amid all this – “A child is born to us, a son is given us; upon his shoulder dominion rests … ” so says the Prophet Isaiah.

Love.  Where is it?  Where is it in culture?  In you?  Why do you let others hijack love from you?  Be played the fool no longer – for a child is born unto us.

Shalom.

These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace.  In the world ye shall have tribulation but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

John 16:33

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We are, it seems, better at discontent than contentment.  This need not be.

Look around – so many assert themselves, make pleas as to a perceived “injustice.”  Mind you each voice of self-promotion of this sort is a voice that divides one from another … for there is no advocacy but that someone is designated as the “oppressor,” the enemy.

I ask you this – if you have the peace of Christ can there be this need for advocacy and self-promotion?  Would angry voices and division ever be necessary?

You know the answer.  Our peace is in Christ.  Yet, we are a quarrelsome breed, always at odds with others.  Look at our public figures, the public “intellectuals,” our news media, celebrities, the legions of advocates – who among us speaks with the voice of Christ?  Who counsels and conveys the certainty we are afforded in the life, death and resurrection of Christ?  Who, despite disappointment and deceit, remains certain as to this life and its outcome?  Who is undeterred by conflict and inequality?

Those who live in Christ live in peace – maintain a stable disposition – are neither chaotic or perpetually angry.  No, they are confident and strong of heart.

We need in this culture today to reduce the conflict, discontent and disorder.  We need men and women who build a life on Christ and faith.  I think particularly of our political figures – Members of Congress and the those whose life have been as permanent fixtures in the federal government.  I see no one in this group who speaks with the confidence and reassurance that witnesses the peace of Christ.  Rather I see, among the elected and particularly among the ideologues, a hostile disposition that knows no comfort.

Having lived a life of hardship, loss and poverty in the midst of combat that such things bring – I can tell you that living in the peace of Christ is the only vehicle that brings one peace, certainty and stability.  Each of the discontented and quarrelsome voices deserve only your rejection – for they know nothing of a life of peace.

Who in their right mind would want to be led by those who are angry and hostile, discontented and not at peace?

Shalom.

It is never easy to discern what motivates people to vote, but exit-poll evidence and other survey data suggested that a significant reason for the vote to leave the EU (European Union) was a long running resentment at what people saw as a lack of accountability from government and large institutions.  There was a powerful sense that the very fabric of democratic politics had been torn as powerful people and institutions … simply did whatever they wanted without deference to the will of the people, pursuing economic imperatives seen as favoring the advantaged.

Gerard Baker, in The Wall Street Journal, December 8-9, 2018

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” … powerful people and institutions … did whatever they wanted without deference to the will of the people … “

While Mr. Baker is referring to Brexit and the English people and their politicians and bureaucrats … and (by inference) the wealthy and corporate elites and those in the public media and higher education, what he says explains the riots in France and the election of a populace in Italy and in the United States.  To make this simple – the political class and the well-healed have created a divide between the populace (and their ethos) and their own particular desires, interests and often loony or unsavory ideas, fetishes and fancies.

In France, England, Italy and the United States – there is a great divide between the common man and woman and the governing class and the wealthy class.  The divide is best seen in the question of sovereignty – namely: Who rules in a representative democratic republic?  Those in public office or government bureau, or the citizens of that nation?

Make no mistake – the identity that accrues from being a citizen of the United States, England, France or Italy is not easily dismissed or dissolved by those who think they know better by virtue of their: status, power, title, education, wealth or social circle.

Indeed, to be blunt – here in the United States we have seen the likes of the Clintons as representatives of governing class and we know they are, to be kind, utterly unlikable and substantially disordered.  Of course, they are not alone among the elites in that regard.

My point?  The voting public is no longer apt to play follow “the leader” when the costs of doing so are the loss of their livelihood, identity, freedom, family, religious ethos, culture, their priceless morality or safety and security.

For this tension to be resolved favorably, the elites must be disabused of the idea that they know best.  They do not.

Shalom.

In character, in manner, in style, in all things, the supreme excellence is simplicity …

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Sovereignty, loyalty and solitude.

Georges Bataille, in The Unfinished System of Nonknowledge

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You want to know why the Brits favor leaving the European Union – it’s because they favor simplicity and their own sovereignty … to the rule of a distant, obtuse political class that lives and governs beyond their borders.  Yeah, they know instinctively and by life experience that he who governs lease governs best … and they have seen up close and personal the nonsense, waste, destruction and foolishness that large-and-expanding government inevitably brings.

What some examples?  “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor.  If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan.”  The bankrupt Golden State of California is so broke that it is contemplating taxing text messages.  We live in a system that the government can lie to you without punishment and we can be prosecuted for a felony for lying to it … and they’ll even trick you into committing the felony!  Our Peanut farming former President brought us the Department of Education and education has gone to hell sooner that one can say “Y’all.”

Just about everything the government and those loons who seek more of it do makes matters more complicated, convoluted and corrupt.  When you think of government as it now exists think too things: simplicity (forfeited) and sovereignty (lost).

By the way, isn’t God sovereign?  Does God not make us so?  Is God not more direct and simpler than government … say, the IRS for example?

Want to understand riots in Paris?  The English voters decision to ditch the clowns of Brussels, the election of Donald Trump and populism arising in other Western countries? Just look at the nonsense of the “governing class.”  Only a jackass would want more of this.  Jackass?  Hey don’t the Democrats have such a mascot?

Simplicity and sovereignty … best when government is small and unobtrusive.

Shalom.

There is a widespread sense of loss here, if not always of God, then at least of meaning.

Charles Taylor, in Secular Age

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In the above quote, Professor Taylor is referring to the consequences of secularism on American and Western culture.  His words make me think of the funeral of President Bush yesterday.

The news people covering the funeral of former President George Hebert Walker Bush opined that we have lost our way, lost our manners, our character – that we were not as the former President was, that we are less and longed for the past.  But true to form they attribute that lost was of recent vintage.  Alas, what they lament was not lost between the presidency of the elder Bush and today.  Indeed they conveniently do not remember that Mr. Bush ran on this slogan: “A Kinder Gentler America.”

How wrong they are.  

America has been losing its way, its character since the affluent-post WW II and particularly from the late 1960’s on – and doing so at an accelerating rate – and note: now losing our way means losing America as it has been over its long history.

Indeed, you know you have a nation and leadership that is lost when – government is the referee as to bathroom privileges – when Holy Matrimony is re-defined by a Supreme Court Justice who is after all only a lawyer … which is to say not wise but merely one who is able to read.

I agree only partly with Professor Taylor in his above words.

My view: we do not lose either God or meaning in secularism rather the loss of God which is the principle cost in secularism is the loss of meaning and herein lies the folly of the Left and the Big Government types – man alone, no matter his elective “holy grail,” CANNOT provide meaning to life and death, mortal existence and eternity.  Man is but a speck of sand – insignificant in the long-term and infinite scale that is Creation in the whole – here on, and into the long darkness of endless space.

Our sickness today is this: we vie like absurd circus clowns to force our “genius” on others – same-sex marriage, global warning and the assumption that our “omnipotence” can save the day, nations without borders, the expansion of the rare statistic that is “transgenderism” to a political disposition, and the lie that is “socialism” in history, etc.

God = meaning.  No God = no meaning.

Shalom.

  

The goal of Western religions … is to bring about a relationship between human beings and God, who are not the same.  The typical attitude of the Levant, of the Near East from which our religions come, is the submission of human judgment to that power conceived to be God.  (Emphasis added.)

Joseph Campbell, in Thou Art That

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Having written of good and evil, we might turn to the discord exhibited by a large portion of the population in England, France, Italy, the United States and to a lesser effect in Germany.

What we see in each is a deep distrust of, and serious dissatisfaction with, elites who have governed over the last few decades.

What, one might ask, does this have to do with the above quote?

Western people are a Levant people.  It is foundational to us, our culture and its governing laws and institutions that we are owing ultimately to God alone – not the state or those who govern it.  Simply stated this belief is our identity and the bridge to one another.

When the state becomes too big and too involved in the intimate lives of its people, when it banishes God from the public square, approves of abortion, sees the nuclear family diminished, education become leftist indoctrination, dubious concepts as to marriage and sexuality promoted and forced on others, the freedoms in national Constitutions eroded, borders abandoned, the value national identity discounted, “climate change” adherence demanded of all, and economies decline if favor of globalism – we see the visceral reaction of common citizens – so deep is their belief that God alone is God and government, elites and boisterous advocates are not.

What we see today in France and England and the United States is common people in revolt.  Their anger is with the loss of their identity and all that flows from that identity which is based on a relationship with God not the state.

Secularism, damaging as it can be, has its limits … likewise elites have shown their limits.

What we see in the West is a fundamental shift with the thrust back to a restoration of our basic identity and the order of things.

No doubt the Left and the elites find this a hard pill to swallow.  Such is history.  Much is in play today.

Shalom.

 

Sleet, snow and a warm fireplace in the mountains – a quiet day of classical music, tidying up and starting the Christmas cards.

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It is tragic to see how blatantly [one] bungles his own life and the lives of others, yet remains totally incapable of seeing how much the whole tragedy originates in himself, and how he continually feeds it and keeps it going.

Carl Jung, M.D., in Aion (Collected Works, Vol. 9, Part II)

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Jung speaks of the individual, yet what he says is no less true of the aggregate.

Yes, Jung’s words can be applied to us in the aggregate as a body of people, a nation … and frankly ought to be as a means of introspection, self-examination and correction.

Frankly, President Trump’s “drain the swamp” precisely captures the sentiments of the vast voting public who knows we are way off course.  Indeed, the midterm election to the extent that the Trump’s political party gained seats in the Senate and the minority party gained seats in the House by running more middling candidates is an indication that voters realize Washington is a swamp, with swamp creatures and swamp-like behavior.

I write about faith and culture and have a background in law, theology, politics and public policy.  That said I have strung together a handful of tragic “bungles” manifest in today’s culture … things that we are not acknowledging which can lead to tragedy.

Here they are:

  • we are a populace with little knowledge or appreciation of Western Civilization or America’s history and its unique government structure
  • we have departed from a belief in God and the practice of faith – and lost any sense that there is a natural order to things material and spiritual
  • our affluence has bred softness, arrogance and the expectation of entitlement
  • our “elites” are afforded status and attention they do not warrant
  • we have a very poor understanding of the psychological and spiritual development needed to be a healthy, mature human
  • the role of family has declined while dependence on government, immorality, division has increased
  • we are largely ignorant of the U.S. Constitution and abuse it routinely by shaping it to political demand
  • professions like law, news reporting, university teaching and government service have lost their integrity
  • we have neglected our military and allowed our adversaries to gain an advantage on us
  • secularism has dramatically altered for the worse the experience of being human.

Time to look at ourselves honestly and stop bungling ourselves into tragedy … or extinction.

Shalom.

Elites – Look at England.  The British people wish to leave the EU and restore their national sovereignty and their Prime Minister cannot and will not negotiate a break with the EU.  Much like our situation in America – the elites are disconnected from the population, do not recognize the value of the average citizen – rather they scorn them.  This is much the remarkable position of Democrats and life-long swamp denizens.

 

 

… there’s nothing more intimate in life than simply being understoodAnd understanding someone else.

Brad Meltzer, The Inner Circle

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When you hear the word “intimacy” in our present culture you almost always think of it in a physical context – and hardly ever as Brad Meltzer refers to it.

This tells you something significant about our culture.

It tells you that in a material culture we are far more physical than interpersonal, cordial, communal, familial, or spiritual.

Just look at the drivel that emanates from the “entertainment” industry.  One denizen of that environ recently offered naked pictures of herself (ugh!) to “get out the vote” for Democrats.  Go figure?

Yes, we have destroyed, or badly injured, the idea of “intimacy” (and of sexuality) by our ignorance as to what intimacy is and what an absolutely critical, indispensable role it plays in human well-being, friendship, and cordial and communal relationships with others.

Frankly, there is no friendship without the intimacy Mr. Meltzer identifies it.  The health of a human being is dependent on intimacy.

We are social beings – meant to be known and to know others.  We are recipients of life and hence recipients by nature for life – bound to be received and to receive others.

Likewise we are a story people.  We live by narrative, learn by narrative, record narrative, gain wisdom and insight by narrative, worship through narrative.

Telling and receiving another’s story is sacred, and the bedrock of our psychological welfare and the psychological well-being of another.  That is the field of real intimacy.

Yes, we are contented and feel whole when another person hears our story and accepts it, receives it, carries it in their own unfolding life.

Today we are far from the intimacy Brad Meltzer identifies.

Our well-being and survival depends on moving toward the intimacy Mr. Meltzer identifies.  Short of that objective and disorder and discontent grows and grows, and brings with it homicides, suicides, adulteries, loneliness, corruptions, betrayals, hostilities, divisions, broken families and failed marriages, sexual predators, psychological illnesses, angers, addictions and depressions.

Get “intimacy” right or suffer the grave consequences.  We are made for one another – far more than merely what is material and physical.

Shalom.

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