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… she seated herself at the Lord’s feet and listened to His teaching …

Lk 10:39

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Here we refer to Mary of Bethany, who sat at Jesus feet listening to His words, His teaching while her sister Martha prepared a meal for others.

As you recall, Martha complained to Jesus that her sister sat while she worked.  And you likely recall that Jesus remarked that Mary chose the better way.

We in this Nation are, in my opinion, at the most significant historical point in my lifetime of 72-plus years.  We face today a political, moral and spiritual crisis which I believe to be the most ominous threat to our existence that we have faced.

There are those among us who seek to secularize us completely, to disgorge us of faith and morality, substitute socialism for free market capitalism, concentrate power in Washington, regulate human behavior, thinking, and opinion, and institute a government of a small and privileged ruling class.

So why reference Mary of Bethany at the feet of Jesus?  Well, because there is a profound and urgent lesson in this story.  The lesson?  Our welfare, security, prosperity, peace and the preservation of this unique free nation, built on belief in God coupled with freedom, can best be maintained by listening to the Word of God, being guided by it and incorporating it into our life and political views.

“If any man thirst, let him come to me and drink.  Out of his inmost being will flow rivers of living water.”

Jn: 37-38

Shalom.

 

 

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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.

 

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.

I do not need to see myself, I merely need to be myself.

Thomas Merton, in No Man is an Island

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We are a very visual culture.  “Selfies” are likely the clearest/sickest evidence of this.  Pornography adds to this point, as does addiction to computer use and computer games – and children “texting” naked pictures of themselves to one another.

Merton asks why we are so anxious to see ourselves?  His answer – we “do not fully believe in (our) own existence.”  Merton furthers this by saying not believing in one’s self is the result of not believing in God.  His point: you cannot just be if you do not believe?

Fair point – good point.

Merton’s view is as good as any I have encountered.  Useful.  Current.  Significant.  Valuable. Important to each of us.

Have you ever asked yourself – “Why selfies?”  Or this – “Would there be a celebrity culture without a hyper-visual culture?”

As Merton says above – just be.   

You do not need to see yourself to be yourself.

Shalom.

Note on Celebrity Culture in a Hyper-Visual Society – Last night talented actor Robert DiNero offered a profanity-laced lecture about politics and his opionions about same to a captive audiece and the public at-large.  Think about it.  Mr. DiNero barely graduated from high school but by being merely a “Big Screen” Hollywood actor he gets to pepper us with his pedestrian views as if he is “expert” on these matters.

In our visual culture, we now see public policy lectures from the folks who once comprised the drama geeks in your high school experience.  Good bye Washington, Adams, Lincoln & Co.  We’ll listen to the celebrites for our insight.

 

Why does anyone tell a story?  It does indeed have something to do with faith, faith that the universe has meaning, that our little human lives are not irrelevant, that what we choose to say or do matters, matters cosmically.  (Emphasis added.)

Madeleine L’Engle

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So says author Madeleine L’Engle (Wrinkle in Time and so many other wonderful works).

Yes, life has meaning.  Yes, life has meaning for each of us – from the oldest to the youngest, from the richest to the poorest, the healthy to the ill.  Each of us live a life of meaning … and we are not called into life willy-nilly – without purpose or sanctity.  We are holy beings – everyone.

Finding meaning is the issue.  Finding meaning and experiencing the intimate and amazing reality that we (each one) has a reason for being and for living a full life – beginning to end.

Where to find meaning?  One place in story.  In the written and oral stories of the human being throughout history – in our mortal and eternal existence.

Story.  The best and most revealing story we possess as Christians and Jews is our religious narrative.  It, more than any other story within our reach, is laden with meaning for each of us.  Each recorded episode of God and his people, of Christ and his disciples records the meaning of life for each of us.

Yet, there are those among us whose actions seem to say: “I know not my meaning – I have no value, no meaning, no purpose – I am lost – irretrievably lost.”

This is a national cultural crisis.  It is immediate – it is now.  And it need NOT be so.

Sadly, we see the above words of hopelessness in the addicted, the criminal, the thief, the serial adulterer, the sexual predator (man or woman), the pornographer, the pimp, the prostitute, the liar, the cheat, the cruel ones, abusers … in those who take their own life.

We can even hear these words of hopelessness among those good men and women who have lived more objectively than subjectively – those who cultivated the mind at the expense of the heart.  These are good people who have missed the story and its life-sustaining nature.

Sadly about 45,000 people a year now take their own life here in the United States.  Yes, there are about twice as many suicides in the U.S. as there are homicides – and the number of suicides is growing rapidly.  Such is the price of godlessness in our exclusionary secular culture.  

We have lost our way.  Those with power and authority have forsaken faith – turned their backs to God and abandoned religion and our religious narrative at a very, very great price.  You see our unhappiness and self-destruction is the product of life without meaning – which is to stay: life without God, without attending to our religious story.

If there ever was a time when we had to reverse course it is now.  Come back to a life-giving story.  Come back to your faith narrative.  Demand it be welcomed in the public square.  Play an active role in our cultural recovery and restoration by adopting your religious story as a guide, and active ingredient in your daily life, thoughts and actions.

Our country needs you.  Others need you, too – especially our children.

Shalom.

If this post speaks to you, act on it – share it with others but do take your faith seriously.  Learn you story in its content and insight.  As usual, I appeciate your comments.  Thank you for reading Spirlaw.

 

I often listen to Gregorian Chants to start the day.  It separates me from the world – its chatter and foolishness.  I recommend it.  It connects you with what is calm and eternal.
Who after all wishes to sail on “a ship of fools?”

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We have committed ourselves to exile, that is, we are outside secular boundaries … (Emphasis added.)

Life of Syncletica, in Monastic Wisdom: Writing on the Contemplative Life

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When a culture gives you disorder and the company of fools and “disassemblers” – those who find truth a stranger to them, is it not better to remove yourself and maintain both peace and sanity … contact with what is true and divine?

When you separate from a sick culture, your values are sustained, you retain autonomy, dignity, sanity, integrity, virtue, peace and contentment.  More so, you live as a mortal within eternal reality.  You remain calm and free of the nonsense, destruction and duplicity that is a godless culture.  Yes, you leave the inmates in their self-made asylum.

Enter Gregorian chants.

In separation we are cognizant of the falsity and chaos of the existing culture – but we do not concede its rule over us.  We remain free to be who we were made to be – contentment follows.

In separation we reside in our own cloister, our mind and heart prosper – our soul lives in us and in our thoughts and deeds.

In separation, we dismiss the gossip of the culture, its useless and truth-less “news,” its imagined celebrity status and faux leadership class.

In separation, the cyber world is an option, but trivial – never a master.

In separation – reading and prayer, thinking and quiet, silence and nature, caring and love of others come to form.  God is nearer, beauty is alive.  Hope prevails despite the best efforts of others to destroy all tranquility and our irreplaceable inheritance.

Separate.  Sustain what is sacred and sane.

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.

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. 

Any renewal not deeply rooted in the best spiritual tradition is ephemeral …

Carl Jung, M.D., in Collected Works

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Jung knew the importance of seeing the spiritual content of life and life’s events.  We are not so readily inclined.  He derived meaning and understanding from this.  Our inability to do so, leaves us confused and, in the worse cases, destructive of self and others.

It seems to me this is where we are today.  Likewise we have few (if any) commentators who are capable of seeing and discussing the spiritual and psychological elements of our present moment and its fractious nature.

This circumstance makes me think of Mary and Joseph and their newborn child’s flight into Egypt.

You may recall that an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and urged him to flee lest Herod kill the child.  This itself has meaningful value as a simple story.

What we see in this is the fear felt by the ruling authority vested in a rigid status quo – the fear that “change” other than what they offer or demand, however aluminating otherwise, may be costly to their status quo.

Thinking of today – this may well explain the daily hostility we see aimed at President Trump by media, comfortable elites and his political adversaries.  His presence disturbs their psychological comfort, their status, the world as they have come to know it.

It is always wise to ask deeper questions when one sees reactions at that are overt, persistent and hostile.  Such reactions signal that a fundamental cord has been struck, i.e. something important is afoot.

Likewise when ones sees those sworn to serve lawfully acting in a lawless manner – one confirms again – this is a significant moment.  I think, in particular, of the challenges to the U.S. Constitution – another grave sign that fundamental stakes are at play.  And I think of legal guardians acting unlawfully.

More to the point, when the Constitution is easily attacked its opponents tell us they do not realize that this document is as much a spiritual document as it is a political document.

Indeed, seeing only with political eyes produces destructive consequences for the Constitution is by all measure a document that reflects the soul and identity of a free people and their nation.  Damaging it, damages our individual and collective self – our identity and relationship to one another as one people united and free.

So often we miss the spiritual and psychological aspects of life in one’s historical moment.  Such a mistake is always costly and wrought with conflict that could be avoided if we just recalled our larger context – namely, the narratives of our heritage and what they tell us.

Shalom.

 

Whoever does not honor the son does not honor the Father who sent him.

Jn 5:23

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These are the words of Jesus.  They are spoken after Jesus encouraged a lame man on the Sabbath to arise from his mat and walk and the man did – thereby prompting faithful Jews to take exception with the man because it was “not lawful … to carry (the) mat” on the Sabbath, and to find fault with Jesus for telling the man to do so (and effectively curing the man’s disability).

There are two things that struck me in this story.  One, the faithful Jews knew their law and lived by it.  That is – their faith governed their life.  And, two – Jesus spoke what he knew to be the truth – that he was the Son of God sent by his Father.  He, too, lived by faith.

So why write about this?

We live in a time when many live by ideology, or their own particular and individual desires or personal interests.  Indeed, many who live this way condemn those who do not share their views.

We have a good deal of political notions advanced as if they are holy and divine.  Not so.  They are mostly individual perceptions advanced as if they are the bedrock of moral existence, superior to other’s points of view.

It seems to me, upon reflecting on the above story, that we are best when we ask: Do I live by the tenets of my faith?  Or do I merely advance my own ideas regardless of my professed faith?  In short, does a professed Christian live as a Christian?  A Jew as a Jew – honoring their tradition and professed beliefs.

It seems to me this is worth some reflection.

Shalom.

Amazing and Ironic – In a new book by former White House aid to President Obama,  Ben Rhodes writes that his boss viewed himself as special, above the fray – an exemplar for what is good and wise – with views that are just best of others to adopt.

The irony is this: that idea of being “special” and better and wiser than the electorate is precisely the view held by those in Washington who have sequestered themselves away from the common man and common woman who comprise this country – and who deem that they too are “better,” “wiser” and “a cut or more” above the voters.

The even greater irony?  Donald Trump won because he demonstrated he is more like the voter than the permanent Washington crowd and those who deem themselves “elite – and thereby “privileged.” You know real humility never hurt anyone – but ah, is it hard to find among the “special people.”  

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