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… honor is blackened by patricide … no amount of high-sounding formalities will make it white again.

Catherynne M. Valente, in In the Night Garden

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I am regrettably too often stunned by how it is that we can report on daily events and miss their collective message – what the cumulative nature of something that is seen singularly and episodically can tell us.

It seems that those with access to the public stage have no depth or width of intellect. While a trend or recurrent series of like-kind events can connote a pattern, give us a larger context and way of understanding and responding, we are blind, clueless because we are illiterate – largely narrowly educated, not contemplative, thoughtful.

Patricide (the killing of one’s father) is an example.

Patricide spans the mythology and history of humankind in virtually all cultures from the early days of recorded history to the present.

I thought of this in response to the concerted hatred of President Donald Trump. The uniform hatred seems instant and extreme and signals a larger issue.

Then, I thought of the rejection of the Divine – from God is Dead to atheism and the forced privatization of religion and the attack on religious liberty under the Constitution.

Then, I thought of the feminist movement and its implicit attack on men.  Then, of “White Privilege” and its aim at white males.  Then, the rash of assassinations of police officers (a symbol of male authority).  Then, of the general curve of the “sexual revolution” and its bending of gender understandings.  Then, of the assault on Confederate statutes, and now on Thomas Jefferson and George Washington and the assault on the legitimacy of the U.S. Constitution.  And then, the disregard for the loss of the workers (largely men) in the former industrial, lunch pail class.  And then, public policies which have hastened the absence of fathers from families.

There seems to be too many things that implicitly take aim at men not to warrant some analytical thinking which just might detect a movement that is harmful, costly, hostile, divisive.

Societies and cultures rise and fall on the strength of common beliefs (some good and others bad).  Examining themes is essential to self-understanding (individual and collective) – otherwise, we are traveling blindly, ruled by unexamined views, the innate passions they evoke in us … and a mob that soon gathers.

This, indeed, is the environment for grave error, mass error and the powers of darkness it produces.

Our best bet: slow down, see clearly what it before you, put it to a moral test.

Moderation is always preferable to extreme behavior for the former embodies humility while the latter does not.

Shalom.

 

 

 

“Why do you call be me good?  No one is good except God alone.”

Lk 18:18

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These are the words of Jesus in response to a man who addressed him as “Good Teacher.” This rebuff reoriented the man, pointed him toward a truth so easily lost to mortals in the world.  Yes, we are accustomed to thinking we are “good” and things around us are “good,” that we effect “good” easily.  Not so.

Our current disposition places more confidence in man and less in God.  We forget that only God alone is Good … and anything we do to good effect is only a remnant of reality: that we are imperfect and that the good we do is inspired, evidence only of the presence of God within that finds articulation now and again and hardly justifies our imagining that we are good per se.  

In the seven plus decades I have lived I have seen two men occupy the presidency that I identify as particularly good men.  They are President Eisenhower and President Reagan.

That said, in seven decades I have seen exactly one man who I think carried the good of God consistently in virtually all he did in life from childhood to his death. That man: Saint John Paul II.

I caution that we cannot expect good men to occupy public life routinely.  Nor can we scapegoat those who sit in the Oval Office for no one is elected who does not reflect us and the times we live – particularly our concerns, our worries and our reaction to change, loss, and immortality.  

It seems many among us seek to assert with certainty their idea of what is good. Humility is in short supply in our culture today.   Wisdom is absent.  Pride, foolish ideology, selfish interests, even hatred take the place of humility and leave Lady Wisdom without a home.

The question then remains: if Christ was not himself able to claim the title “Good Teacher” how can so many pundits, op-ed writers, media mavens, professors, politicians, judges, advocates of so many questionable “causes” asset with such certainty that what they promote is good and wise?

Shalom.

Postscript – I have tried to write about faith in secular culture in the hopes of showing how we have strayed from faith at great cost.  Yet, today I see we are past the point of discussion, that minds have been closed, positions are set in stone and conflict, hate and violence are on the rise.  Alas, I shall have to focus on God in the humbling knowledge that it is God alone who will correct our troubled ways.

Father, we ask for forgiveness and seek that you might lead us to humility so then we might listen and learn … and it time do what is truly good – live the way you call us to live.  We ask that You free us from what is false and give us the capacity to see what is good and what is not, and to do that which is good while rejecting what is not. Amen.

Peace be with you.

Dedicated to My Son, His Wife and My Two Grandchildren … and All the Parents Raising Children

To be a good parent … we do not need to be people who have arrived; God simply calls us to be on the way, seeking, finding, and rejoicing in what we find. (Emphasis added.)

Catherine Stonehouse, in Joining Children on the Spiritual Journey: Nurturing a Life of Faith.

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My son and I recently had a very interesting conversation about providing for the spiritual lives of his two small children, ages almost three and almost one.

Yes, children have – as all human beings do – innate spiritual needs and desires.

Throughout the ages people are confronted with all sorts of probative “why” and “how” and “what” and “who” questions.  Why do bad things happen?  How can we be good? What is love? How do you forgive someone? Who made the world? Why go to church?

Yes, we are all bound by these questions.  And, no – politics does not provide the answer.  And, yes – by thinking all things are political as many do in this imploding secular culture we establish one thing for sure: life and cultures demand that individuals pay particular attention to our interior, the spiritual plateau in all human beings or court chaos and destruction, disintegration.  Absent attention to the spiritual: cultures, societies, communities, families, nations, individual people are undone – destroyed – trapped in selfishness, error, hostility, destruction, conflict, injury and despair.

Frankly, we are inclined precisely in that destructive dimension in contemporary America and the West at this very moment.  

We are, of course, not human beings seeking a spiritual experience, but rather – spiritual beings seeking a human experience.

Look around you.  Do you see how costly denying God and spiritual reality can be?

Parents attend to your spiritual existence and invite your children to join you.   Individually you will each be better – together you will be a family – a sacred, life-saving vessel in a world of choppy waters and occasional gales.

I wish you smooth seas – no matter the conditions you meet.

Shalom.

Moral Indignation.  Been alive for seven-plus decades.  Ain’t met a single perfect person, nor an angel.  My conclusion: we are not perfect.  Yet, now some (armed with moral indignation) are set on tearing down statues of people they find unsavory.  With this approach the Democrat Party may find itself banished after their lengthy history of favoring the Klan and racial segregation.

In the language of Boston politics – what goes around, comes around.    

 

 

Sanctity is not a luxury, but a simple duty.

St. Maximilian Kolbe (1894-1941)

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St. Maximilian Kolbe, a Catholic Priest, died in the Nazi concentration camp of Auschwitz, 76 years ago today.  He was 47 years old.

He died a martyr when he voluntarily stepped forward to request that he be permitted to take the place, in an execution, of a fellow inmate who had a wife and children.

The Camp Commander agreed and Fr. Kolbe was placed in a dark and dingy cell with nine other men to be starved to death.

Having survived two weeks without food, Fr. Kolbe was given an injection of carbolic acid to kill him.  It is reported that his appearance at death was as if he had been enveloped by the love of God.

St. Maximilian Kolbe is truly an appropriate measure to apply to ourselves and our culture and those in it – and particularly to those in politics who profess to “lead” us, serve us, protect us – keep us sane and safe … and to those in the professions and education, and to those in religious stations who have vowed to keep us close to Christ, and to the Father.

On this anniversary of Fr. Kolbe’s death, I suggest that you take time to reflect on your obligation to live up to your faith, to live as Fr. Kolbe did, as Christ did. Likewise, it is a good time to ask: Do those with public voice live as Fr. Kolbe did?

Remember “Sanctity is not a luxury, but a simple duty.”

Shalom.

Question.  Who among those who clashed in Charlottesville, Virginia, this weekend resembled Fr. Kolbe?  Answer: No one, it seems.

 

Human culture has always had to exist under the shadow of something infinitely more important than itself.

C. S. Lewis, in The Weight of Glory

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Lewis wrote this in 1939 when Britain and France declared war on Germany.  As sabres rattle, we come to this again.  Culture exists under the shadow of the Infinite.

The question for us is this: we knew this in 1939, but do we know it now?

It is hard to answer that question in the affirmative.  We kill the unborn child. Sanction illicit relationships.  Rely on reason, not God.  Favor pride over humility. A dropout makes a “social network” that takes the place of face to face contact and we think it is grand.  Loyalty is missing.  Character is not easily seen. Morality is breeched.  Excuses and lethargy are abundant.  Education shows it is not worth the price.  Many are lost.

The road ahead is the road restored.

When sabres rattle you’d best be standing under the shadow of the Infinite.

Shalom.

We … pay … tribute … because he used his matchless power for the good of man.

Clarence Darrow

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Darrow used these words to eulogize Robert G. Ingersoll.  They are words unlikely to be applied to members of the Washington elite, the small inbred group who lusting for power come to Washington and never leave.  That is this city’s way.  These are the people who disdain the larger public, the people who live in “fly-over” land, the ones called “a basket of deplorables.”

Yes, that is the way people here look at citizens of this land.  There are, of course, some exceptions – but this attitude full of arrogance fuels those who intend to drive the President from office.  Why?  He is not one of them, and he shows disregard for them, their self-serving ways and failure to lead this great Nation well.

Darrow honored Ingersoll for the way he lived, conducted himself, thought of others not himself.

One would think that those who serve us in government leadership positions ought to be like Ingersoll.  Alas, it seems that this is not the case.

This, in time, will be the test: will the sovereign public reject the arrogant elites?

American is a good place.  Preserving its goodness requires that those who would lead are good as well.  This appears a crossroad juncture at the present moment.

Shalom.

 

Excellence is an art won by training and habituation … not an act but a habit.

Aristotle

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Very few visible in mass media are habituated to excellence.  If you want mediocrity or less, mass media provides an endless supply of such lightweights. However, beware: if you have a diet of mediocrity you will disgorge yourself of the attitude, instinct, discipline and will for excellence.

Excellence takes strength of soul.  Excellence understands sacrificial love. Excellence honors God in its being and doing.

All have the capacity needed for excellence.  Yet many forfeit the strength of soul.  Those who forfeit strength of soul live lies – excuses are common to them, envy too – they seek nothing more urgently than to thwart the will of others, to neutralize the soul.

Those who forfeit strength of soul are weak links.  They abound in politics today. They prefer dependence to a free populace for they fear being challenged to live fully.  They keep others bound-up so they might wallow in under-achievement, the cost of which always includes dishonesty and corruption.

When mediocrity rules, men are targeted, for it is men who do the dying, who come easily to sacrificial love.  A warrior class is always necessary.  Today, the weak seek their demise.  Men are targets for the weak fear them. 

Want to see the locus of excellence in American culture, look at the middle class and those like me who lived in poverty and in daily combat.  Look, not just at me but at my petite mother – one tough cookie … and her parents, and her brothers Don and Ray.  Their habit was excellence – its byproducts: humility, confidence, contentment, compassion, joy and laughter, insight, wisdom, generosity, gratitude.

Excellence comes to those who must work hard to survive, and to whom difficulties befall because in the hardest things they live daily by strength of soul. This is why the Left so despises the middle class and seeks to make dependents of the poor.  Don’t let yourself be sold short or sold out.

Live in excellence.  You’ll scare the heck out of the elites and make of us again a great people.  And, in the habits of excellence is satisfaction.

Enjoy the life God has given you.  Don’t let anyone deny you a life of excellence – especially of moral excellence.

Shalom.

Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does. (Emphasis added.)

Jean-Paul Sartre

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Sartre, of course, is wrong about being “condemned to be free” but he is correct in saying the human person is “responsible for everything he (or she) does.

Responsibility is largely honored in its absence now.  We can thank the Left for this. They talk about rights but never about responsibilities.  In health care they never see the sanctity of life as a gift and our responsibility to take care of ourselves, to eat properly, exercise, control our weight, avoid unhealthy vices, etc.

Indeed, the godless Left holds few “responsible” least of all themselves and those in their ranks who seek that others pay the tab for their irresponsibility. Of course, the Left does hold responsible those who expect each of us to be responsible.  Odd as it seems, even the godless Sartre is more to be trusted than the present day American Left.

I guess one can conclude that years of Leftist irresponsibility has made even Sartre a Conservative.  If you need a measure of how ill-conceived the positions and policies of the Left are – imagining Sartre a Conservative probably does it.

Shalom.

Remember – Spirlaw is a blog about faith and culture – as such it must address the culture as it is.  And that now means as its political state the condition of which would be vastly improves if God and faith were given a rightful place.  Yes, if each living being saw life as a gift and took responsibility for it as such.

The clash of civilizations will dominate global politics.  Fault lines between civilizations will be the battle lines of the future.  (Emphasis added.)

Samuel P . Huntington

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Do not Islam and Marxism display the truth of Professor Huntington’s remarks? Is our national security not, then, contingent upon America and the West knowing who they are and who their rivals are – what is the bedrock of our identity and their identity?

American and Western identity rests on our classical legacy, Christianity, the relationship between church and state, freedom of religious expression, free speech and free elections, the rule of law, civil society and the peaceful transition of political power, free market economics, and our historic national footprint.

When cultures clash, as they do now, one must have a very clear understanding of who one is.

When cultures clash radical variation in basic identity within a society is a luxury that cannot be readily accommodated.  That said, a political party like the Democrat Left whose identity is based on: perpetual radical social and economic “change,” the centralization of cradle to grave power in the federal government, creating conflict through “identity politics” which manufactures angry “victim classes” and enslaved government dependents – compromises the nation’s security.  A state of perpetual internal flux puts in question one’s basic identity – it distracts and creates unnecessary and dangerous discord.

Indeed this is where we are today: division within while those within and without who wish our defeat grow stronger and more intent on our destruction. 

To make matters worse, very few of those who occupy political office have any inkling of the challenge we face and the fundamental question it raises.  The question?  Who exactly are we?

In a clash of cultures not knowing who you are is fatal.

Shalom.

 

 

Had the privilege of attending an evangelical service and to hear the testimony of a former pro football player, so I am posting later than normal.

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And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

Rom. 8: 28

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Today I had the privilege to listen to a very large, strong, warm-hearted, athletic man discuss his journey from urban poverty to the National Football League – a man who could not read and in the course of his career became addicted to drugs.

I saw a behemoth of a man candidly discuss his shame at not being able to read -a man who feared of being “discovered” as one who could neither read, nor write and who, in time, became a drug user.

I saw a man of courage in his public story.  I was a man who recounted those who stooped to help him when he fell.  I heard him tell of those of faith who never stopped being his friend, his brother.  I heard him warmly describe his parents dedication to their faith and his participation in worship as a child.  I heard a man speak of the grounding in “Christian values” that never quite left him, despite his troubles.

In the course of his story you could see how his failures combined with his faith and the presence of others of faith – gave him the opportunity to move past his fear.  You heard how his faith was strengthen by the presence of faithful men and women who never stopped caring for him and encouraging him to get and remain sober and to grow in faith.

In a way he, and others, who fail and continue to work at getting better, getting sober, giving more of himself to God are conforming to God’s call to them, are conforming to God purpose for them.  Yes, some must fall so others might learn, so others might see, so others might hear God’s voice.

There is great humility in failure, and in failure humility grows when we discover that we are not forsaken in failure, that we are still loved by God.

Do not fear failure.  Know that God works all things for good to those who love Him.  You are never too old to be new again.

Shalom.

 

 

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