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You can’t lie to your soul.

Irvine Welsh, in Porno

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Whole lot of people in Washington in positions of authority and in politics who are at odds with their soul.

That’s the net on these IG reports.  That’s the nature of “power” and government today in our nation’s Capitol.

A whole lot of this is the product of the Democrat Left – although the moderate Republicans are also easily co-opted in order to sustain the electoral system, their role in governing and the guise of respectability.  But there is no virtue or anything beautiful in dishonesty.  “Swamp” indeed.

Just look at the upper management echelons of the FBI, Justice Department and the Obama White House and administration.  Look at the Clintons – their foundation and their personal conduct and the behavior of those around them.  Not good.

Now the test is presented.  What will we do with what we see and know to be dishonest?  Weasel about?  Lie to ourselves about lies?  Or face the truth squarely and set the record and ourselves straight.

In our representative democracy when one trades away virtue and honesty for power, one deprives the populace of freedom and the protections of law and the U.S. Constitution.

You know once trust is lost, it does not easily return.  Lying undoes even the best form of self-governing.  A lot at stake here, Friends.

Shalom.

 

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Cheap race is grace we bestow on ourselves … grace without the Cross …

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in The Cost of Discipleship

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The Philadelphia Eagles were invited to the White House in honor of their winning the last NFL Super Bowl.  Apparently a number of players did not want to attend – as a form of protest or political statement.  President Trump withdrew their invitation.

Quite honestly, I am glad he did this.  Why?

My answer is this: Cheap Grace.  Now, what am I saying?  Too many people in the celebrity class (professional athletes and entertainers, in particular) use their public presence to complain about this or that “injustice” and do so while enjoying the unique opportunities that they have been afforded and the substantial financial benefits they receive.

Think about it.  A man in the NFL has the God-given size, speed, strength, agility, intellect and discipline to earn substantial income playing a game.  Most of them have been given a college education free of charge while others might pay $200,000 for that education.  Yet of late these privileged athletes use their notoriety to “protest.”

Recently, a number of NFL players have refused to stand for the National Anthem – claiming this or that “injustice.”  Well, fine.  But I ask this question: What have they done to secure the freedom they have?  What sacrifices have they made?  Have they fought in battle?  Lost a limb in Iraq or Afghanistan?  Have they served in the military at all?  Do they have any idea that the freedom they enjoy was secured by the heroic and selfless efforts of those who came before them?  It seems not.  Do they see the men and women who serve us now in uniform?  Do they see the price police are paying with their lives?  It seems they do not.

Cheap grace.  Not having done anything to secure the freedom they enjoy – they complain, make a public display – grown men acting childishly.  Gifted athletes acting like “snowflakes.”

Life is hard for most people.  The price of freedom is high and paid by many, many men who have come before these pampered athletes and their celebrity counterparts.

For the life of me I do not understand how we can be anything but contemptuous of those who complain so freely when, on the contrary, they have much for which to be thankful.  Shear selfishness.  Hello, narcissism.

We have been too easy on those most fortunate who yelp and complain from their stations of substantial privilege.  Their ingratitude is astonishing.

There is absolutely nothing flattering about one bestowing God’s grace on oneself.  Better they have humility than such childishness.

We earn our way by a Cross that is carried.  First, Christ.  Then each of us.  Such is life and honor.  Dismiss these childish whiners.

Shalom.

When will they learn?  Does anyone on the Left understand that Donald Trump like many working class guys throws an elbow when you throw a punch?  And how about a taste of reality – under Donald Trump minority unemployment is at lows that have not been seen either before or in many years. 

… what we are is to be sought in the invisible depths of our own being, not in the outward reflection in our own acts.  We must find our real selves … in our own soul … the principle of all our acts.

Thomas Merton, in No Man is an Island

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This from a wonderful essay entitled “Being and Doing” in Merton’s No Man is an Island.

His words are very useful in a mass communication, digital and social media culture where images and acts are often center stage and narcissism is a real problem (as reflected in its prominence in therapy and as daily exhibited in the news and on TV).

As to our present climate public acts are so a part of others need for attention.

In the present era we seem to be besieged by those who need to sustain a public image at all costs.  We seem to have a culture that accommodates projecting images as the normal form of being while passing completely on the critical important core of one’s self – the soul.

As Merton noted in his 1950’s essay – “I need not see myself, I merely need to be myself.”

Yes, Merton gives us in eleven words the heart of health, meaning and contentment – not our image (and surely not our narcissistic actions and proclamations) but our eternal soul.

How smart he was.  Imagine now how we are surrounded by narcissism and self-promotion.  How many say nothing of value and cannot maintain day-to-day coherence.

How public figures have convenient double standards that say subliminally: I have no guide but ideology invoked and applied to bolster my personal preference.

It is, I think, fair to say – we have many lemmings, but few Mertons.  Therein is our illness, agitation, confusion, calamity, untruths, treacherous deeds and great unhappiness.

Shalom.

 

 

Stay Safe this Memorial Day

The Master said, “To see what is right and not do it, is want of courage.”

Confucius, in Analects

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I have noticed in my lifetime that courage is easier to find in the common man than in men with status, wealth, privilege and estate.

Likewise I am stunned by the lack of courage among my fellow lawyers.  Many prefer picking “low-hanging” fruit at high billable hours than “a fight.”  It follows far too often that a client pays “through the roof” only to find their lawyer avoids conflict.

Perhaps valor is simply suited for the common man whose life inevitably is hard, has risk, brings him evidence of injustice which MUST be addressed directly and immediately.

I conclude: some fight, most take flight.

Think about this (consider it Bobby’s Rule): when one sees evil but does nothing he or she makes life harder for others for they pass along a troubled person who (when he or she is not challenged in place) simply moves on to others to wreak havoc until finally someone fights back.

Who are you?  The one who lacks courage?  Or the one who confronts the wrongdoer and in doing so – does his or her sacred duty.

Courage, people!  To lack it is to be a disgrace.

Shalom.

Postscript – Confucius speaks this truth in the 5th century before Christ.

I define evil, then, as the exercise of political power – – that is, the imposition of one’s will upon others by overt or covert coercion – – in order to avoid extending one’s self for the purpose of nurturing spiritual growth.  Ordinary laziness is non-love; evil is anti-love.

M. Scott Peck, M.D.

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Dr. Peck, of course, wrote a marvelous short book about evil (People of the Lie) in which he noted that lying is evidence of evil.  Peck observes that evil is built on lies.

Peck’s above words (that of a noted Psychiatrist) are worth thinking about with what we face today: the questionable conduct of high-ranking people in the FBI and Justice Department and, seemingly, in the intelligence community.  Yes, we see a collective partisan interest in using their positions politically – in order to destroy a candidate for President and, once elected, the man himself.

Such conduct as we see is ripe with lies.  For Peck – this is evidence of evil.

Notice that in Peck’s words he says that those who pursue evil do so rather than extend themselves to grow spiritually – in effect, to mature and take on a healthy wholeness.

The root of evil is, it seems, faithlessness – a disregard for God.

When you think about it – he is describing (in the extreme) people like Stalin, Hitler, Mao and others – those who are godless and treacherously sick.  Yet, people as people can easily submit to lying and evil.

That said, Peck reminds us that evil is anti-love.  Yes, hostility to God.

What an indictment he has made.  Where do our present miscreants fall?

We live in times that are fundamentally challenging.  They put us to the task of asking: Who are we?  And, what have we become?  And, who dared corrupt us this way?  What shall we do to those who destroy what is good?  Shall we all return to faith, to Truth and to God?

Shalom.

 

God has made different religions to suit different aspirants, times and countries.  All doctrines are only so many paths; but a path is by no means God Himself.  Indeed, one can reach God if one follows any of the paths with whole-hearted devotion …

Ramakrishna, in The Gospel of Ramakrishna

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I cite Ramakrishna to make this one simple point: do his words not say to you that religion is fundamental to human beings; and, that being said, does it not put to us this question: If religion is fundamental to human beings, how is it our culture and many in authority disparage religion and attempt to exclude faith from public view?

Do you need any evidence this is so?

Just look at the English courts and their medical establishment this week.  They prohibited a loving mother and father from transferring their very ill child to a hospital in Italy where his care could be sustained albeit in his terminal state.

When the laws of man override the love of two good parents one wonders where faith and respect for faith has gone?

Of course, we have many examples here in our own country.  There is a story today of a teacher told to remove a shirt that reminded people to pray.  And of course, despite the unencumbered availability of contraception, the federal government still subsidizes abortion providers.

I leave it to you to decide – have we not rejected the importance of religion and do we not see the dreadful consequences?

Indeed, just last night I saw a video of a public transit station in San Francisco where twenty to thirty people were laying about injecting themselves with heroin in broad daylight while passengers passed by.

Only a community and state where godlessness is prevalent would such degradation of a human being be accepted.

Is there any more obvious indication that God is rejected than permitting a human being to so degrade their own life and life itself in plain view of others?

This disgraceful San Francisco scene reminds me of Nazi death camps located in cities where everyday existence and commerce continued as if evil was not present.

Shame on us.  From “In God We Trust” to who cares!

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.

“Now then, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, then you shall be my own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is mine, and  you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”  (Emphasis added.)

Ex 19: 5, 6

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Thus God spoke to Moses.  His words return to us.  Putting them to test today cannot but give you pause.

Have we obeyed God?  Have we kept His covenant?  Do we look like a nation of priests and a holy nation?  It would be hard to say “yes” to these questions.

Today we welcome a harlot as a center of attention in a story involving her accepting a large financial payment for not talking about a sexual encounter a dozen years ago with a prominent man.  Abortions are more welcome than unborn children.  Judges reign who have been adulterers and married three times.  A former President accepted a cash “gift” for pardoning a fugitive billionaire.  An F.B.I. director and his colleagues lie and unlawfully leak information in pursuit of destroying a political figure they do not like.  A candidate for high office has her multiple misdeeds ignored.  A select prosecutor hires a staff with adulterers and others who have convicted people while withholding information that would have proved their innocence.  The prosecutor himself put four men in jail for a long time who were subsequently freed because of their innocence.

These are not the acts of holy men and women, nor are they in conformity with God’s covenant.  Shame.

But how long will you let those in authority who act in your name cast you aside, impose on you their sinful deeds?  Do you not aspire to something better?

Shalom.

Oh Goody.  A national coffee shop chain is requiring all its employees to spend a day in race sensitivity training and former Attorney General Eric Holder (a lawyer with no special training in psychology, cultural criticism, history, religion, theology, sociology, etc.) will be the instructor.

Now I’m no expert on racism, but I’d bet it is reasonable to define a racist as one who thinks constantly about race and racial division.  That said, the public Mr. Holder seems fixated on race and racial division.  Is this the best one can do?  How about working on seeing all people as (surprise) just people?  God’s children?

The monk is a man who lives in seclusion, in solitude, in silence outside the noise and the confusion of a busy worldly existence.

Thomas Merton, in Contemplation in a World of Action

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A monk lives in response to existing culture.  His thinking is both critical and healthy.  He sees that a present culture does not promote his values, virtue or an integrated, well-formed life.

A monk seeks wholeness and a depth of spiritual existence that cultures usually ignore in their all-consuming demands and expectations.  A monk seeks to understand life and people.  He seeks psychological, emotional and social fitness.  His path is to Truth and to God.  Clarity, peace and wisdom come to him.

His days are composed of work and prayer, silence and listening – quiet, reading and worship.  He finds time to contemplate life at large, its meaning, its best use and ways of being.

The ways of a monk are the perfect counterpoint to the disintegration that is today’s secularized America.

Today we are rife with conflict, antagonism turned to hatred in many instances, division, hostility, abandonment of virtue and morality, to the intrusion of state and the destruction of critical institutions, the lost of a nation’s boundaries and heritage, and its common understandings.

Chaos displaces the order of common understanding and mutual respect.

Each day brings evidence of disorder and often brutality – conduct whereby those who might otherwise lead discredit themselves.

We are no longer unified and living as neighbors guided by good.  Too many force their views on others, advance their disorder on others as if our acquisition of their strife and sickness normalizes them – makes true what is false.

At a time like this – in a culture like this … think of those who go “off to the mountain as the fish to the sea.”

Maybe you can learn from the way of monks.  Can you not acquire their ways in forms that create healthy distance between you and what is destructive?

Your health, wholeness, peace and wisdom resides in the ways of the monk.  In your culture today comes disintegration, illness, hostility, confusion, amorality, untruth and self-destruction.  Your life need not be composed of these things.  

Shalom.

A Book of Interest – You might like a short book entitled Essential Monastic Wisdom: Writings on the Contemplative Life by Hugh Feiss, a priest in the Order of St. Benedict.  It is a fine resource for those who wish to make healthy adjustments in the face of rank disorder and destruction that is exclusive secular culture today.  Peace be with You. 

 

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