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Touch comes before sight, before speech.  It is the first language and the last, and it always tells the truth.

Margaret Atwood, in The Blind Assassin

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The political language today is disturbing, harsh – mean, hateful many times.  Those who speak seem unaware that words can injure, maim – diminish, divide, isolate, crush another’s spirit.  Public discourse alike is often banal – gibberish even.

This his makes me wonder what life might be like if we could only touch.

I recall touching my wife’s feet just before she died.  I knew instantly that this touch was the most loving thing I had even done.  I thought about Christ washing the feet of his Disciples.  Touch is love … or can be – love without words.

The eyes can speak as touch can.  Yes, the eyes are full of language.  They speak best when they express love, admiration, joy, acceptance, kindness and mercy.  The eyes show the heart and show its content.

I wish today that we did not speak as we do.  Today speech so often injures.  I, too, must remember this.

Imagine if we suspended language once a week for a day.  A verbal fast would bring peace in its silence, and thought reflected upon – tamed.  How we need this. A moratorium on the spoken word – peace at last for us one day a week.

I have come now to avoid listening to words willy-nilly, to “news” and commentary, to political people.  I prefer silence.  Life today is better with fewer words.

Recently a Dear Friend said to me: you write so well even when you are sad.  If this is so is it not the case that life does not end when breathing stops – and language is best when it is divine and from the loving heart, when it has “that kind touch” that never fades.

Shalom.

Discussion – The conversation after the Las Vegas shootings turns to preventing such acts.  Sounds fine.  But is that possible when a country supports and defends abortion?  Do we have the moral content to reduce such violence?  Character matters more than words.  Be careful to whom you listen.  

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“Let me look into a human eye … It is better than to gaze into the sea or sky, better than to gaze upon God.”

Herman Melville, in Moby Dick

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These are the words of Captain Ahab in Melville’s classic Moby Dick.

To see.  Not to look, but to see.  Many look; few see.  Blindness is everywhere.  Yet not alone to see, but to see into the eye of another, to catch the reflection of the sea and sky in that eye … and to see in that eye the God who made that person, and made you.

The gang rape in Panama City, Florida during “spring break.”  Yes, an unconscious girl was raped in public, on a crowded beach by three young men, two, at least, of whom are college students at Troy State in Alabama and the rape was filmed while it was occurring with many young women and men standing within feet of the assault – men and women who did nothing but continue to drink and socialize.

Blindness.  A kind of blindness that smells of rot, decay, death and empty souls.

Where to begin?  How to understand?

You may not have read of this attack.  It does not fit the current public narrative. Why?  Perhaps because the men were not white college fraternity boys and surely not the fictional brutes feminists place at the head of the patrimonial estate of marriage.  Such is the cost of false narratives that dominate public dialogue and secular “consciousness” such as it is – a source of blindness as to fact and life – as it is lived in amoral and godless existence.

And, colleges.  Troy State is not an elite school, so those of the false narrative have no target of “privilege” to destroy, and no compliant administrators center stage to impose an immediate exile as easily as Pilate washed his hands of blood.

Truth is, colleges are the training camps that impose of the false narrative.  The results?  Some students rape while others stand near, unperturbed and uninvolved.  Blindness.  Lessons learned.

The filming?  Ah, “social” media is not quite so social.  It is the contrary.  It is distancing.  It is asocial, as the false narrative is amoral.  Social media bludgeons intimacy.  Kills human contact.  Lest you scoff at this.  Is pornography human contact or human estrangement?

Blindness.  We are increasingly so.  Distant from one another.  This makes untruth common, and truth rare.  Blind, we live lies.

Yes, there are good people who do strive to see.  Those who do, feel.  They see the human person, not race or gender, class, or ethnicity, age or disqualifying infirmity.  They see him and her who God hath made.

But those who see are not the “popular” press, nor rank media.  They are not the sloganeering voices of the small-minded special pleaders of race and gender and the like – those for whom slogans empower, give them privilege, the public stage and unearned acclaim.  Self-servers all.  Shallow ones.

In our current false narratives, we are dying – yes, destroying ourselves and this country.  Repudiation of the common nonsense is best.  Dispatching from the public stage those who brought us this disease.

Seek the wise among you.  You will know them in their wisdom, their kindness and honesty – signs of love.  They debunk and dispatch the false and their divisive views – hoping always for reconciliation and reunion – one whole body again.

Yes, it is time for the special-pleaders to be put to pasture, exiled like a white fraternity boy at an elite university.

One who can see, but does not, will have cause for regret.

Yi Jing, 1150 B.C.

Shalom.

Fate is like a strange, unpopular restaurant filled with odd little waiters who bring you things you never asked for and don’t always like.

Lemony Snicket

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I was born a year after the Battle of the Bulge in the optimistic afterglow of World War II.  It was a sunny time. Triumphs bring the sun, it seems.

In sun’s warmth routine takes center stage and people appear well-scrubbed and lighthearted.  Yes, we had stalemate in Korea – but that did not diminish the victory or the victors.  The fumes of success were not diffused by Soviet espionage. Fallout shelters and exercises in which we huddled under our little first grade desks did not deter a sense of winning and having won.

We had in those days a President who had led in War, a man composed of quiet assurance – a fatherly dignity without any hubris, for who needs pride when you have lived success on so grand a stage with millions of clashing swords and higher stakes than one lost soul?

Now we see seven decades past “odd little waiters” bringing things we never ordered.  A Bear who lusts for conflict. A Hermit Kingdom armed and closed to light.  Nineveh destroyed; sackcloth and ashes with no voice for Jonah lost. Lent not heard so well a’more.

At home clouds come and woman has changed, so far less happy; and men confused: fair or foul?  Fashion or faith in face of fate?  A shadow of a child where a Man once lived.

What was once stable is no more.  Family, marriage, stain-glass shelters, common discourse – splintered as not before.  Confusion not confidence; wisdom shrunk.

Faith.  In fate’s cold shadow, what is left?  There are no desks to shelter us.

Faith is nothing more or less than the operation of the thought forces in the form of earnest desire, coupled with expectation as to its fulfillment.

Ralph Waldo Trine

And so we pray to stave off fear.

Shalom.

 

He who represents himself has a fool for a client.

Abraham Lincoln

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The above statement is clear.  He who acts unilaterally is a fool – more so in complex matters.  From a faith perspective one might observe that this proposition is a divine “fail safe” – a way of insuring that we do not act as if we are God, for we are prone to errors and imperfection.

In grand things and small – unilateral action most frequently breeds folly, fundamental error, destruction – and death: individual and collective.

Yesterday’s edition of The Wall Street Journal carried an article by Max Boot who is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and in it Mr. Boot describes how Mr. Obama is pursuing a policy to shift the United States away from Saudi Arabia, Israel, Egypt, Jordan and other allies in the Middle East in favor of Iran – a state that has vowed “death to America,” engaged in persistent terrorist acts against the U.S., and articulates an intention to destroy Israel.

Mr. Boot characterizes the American troop withdrawal from the Middle East as “disastrous and destabilizing.”

The article is worth reading.  It provides a concise and detailed account of the President’s actions in that important strategic area.

What is most stunning about the President’s action is his unilateral action.

He acts alone, without consultation.  He is a loner, acting without the counsel of select foreign policy experts or the input of either the military or elected members of Congress.

Mr. Obama, it seems, is not apprised of history.

A reading of the consequences of unilateral actions in foreign and military policy are clear in Hitler’s disastrous command of the German military in his invasion of Russia, a former German ally.  Closer to today, a review of “Arab Spring” as it has played out in Libya shows our failure to retain a post-Gadhafi American presence has produced anarchy.  Ditto, Iraq.  Power, of course, abhors a vacuum.

Shifts such as the realignment which Boot discusses require national conversation for they present profound alterations.

Let the President make a public case.  Let us decide if this is right for us and all those who will suffer its consequences.  We are after all a sovereign people.  We might want to put to the test the President’s demonstrated judgment on matters foreign and domestic and then we can decide if preceding Presidents and policy makers have been wrong in the Middle East all these years.

Failures on grand scales have wide and costly consequences.  Reading Boot’s article brought to mind this account of the actions of German military guards at the Auschwitz concentration camp:

Others are carrying a young girl with a missing leg; they hold her by her arms and by her one remaining leg.  Tears are streaking down her face as she whispers sadly, “Please, please, it hurts, it hurts …”  They heave her into a truck, among the corpses.  She will be burned alive, together with them.

From We Were in Auschwitz

The stakes are personal and faith is very much in play.

Shalom.

Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our Church … Cheap grace means grace as a doctrine, a principle, a system … a cheap covering for … sins; no contrition required.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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I often observe that the loss of faith in secular culture produces behavior that secularized commentators just do not, by their own admission, understand.  Their puzzlement is amplified by their unfamiliarity with psychology and intellectual history.

Take, for example, the U.S. Senate’s release of their report that is critical of interrogation techniques used on battle field combatants and avowed terrorists captured in our post-9-11 military efforts in the Middle East.

Commentators wonder how it is that the Senate could release such a report, which could have multiple serious negative consequences for those involved in the interrogations, innocent American civilians unconnected to the detentions, our military presently deployed around the world, and our national security.

Why, the commentators ask, would the Senate release something that can be that harmful?

Without passing on the merits of the detention or the interrogations, one thing seems to explain to me why such a report is issued.  Mind you, there may be a number of motivations in releasing the report.  But one thing stands out for me.

It is the notion of “cheap grace” that martyred Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer discusses at the beginning of his book The Cost of Discipleship.

In the book he discusses how people tend to receive the benefits of grace without acknowledging a countervailing obligation of discipleship.  To Bonhoeffer, “cheap grace” is the receipt of an extraordinary benefit without any sense of obligation resulting.

Mind you, I am not saying that our interrogations or detentions were a grace.   But I am saying that the members of the Senate, like all Americans, received some benefit from both the interrogations and detentions.  It is simply impossible to say that there were no benefits derived.  Mind you, as well, that I am not saying that the practices are to be replicated or not.

But I am saying that, in faith, grace is a reciprocal relationship.  There is, as Bonhoeffer would say, no cheap grace.

More to the point I am saying that the Senators who supported the release of this report appear to have missed the idea of reciprocity.  They, like us, were beneficiaries of the interrogations and the detentions.

That said, we cannot wash of hands of either the interrogations or the detentions so we might feel better, cleanse any sense of guilt.

Assuming that the practices were in any part unacceptable, reciprocity would require that having accepted the benefits we not act in a manner that can accrue to the detriment of others, either those who did our bidding or the innocent. Likewise, if there is sin the desire for contrition is necessary.  Public announcement of sin is not, and never has been, contrition.  We cannot feel good at the expense of others.

Shalom.

 

It is difficult not to think about Ferguson, Missouri, and what it says about us on this Thanksgiving.

Despite huge and heroic efforts by Martin Luther King and so many others in the Civil Rights era, and despite national legislative efforts and federal, state and local measures to eradicate racial segregation and its consequences as well as other shameful results of racism – we have managed to keep race as a dividing issue before us.

Some, both Black and White, are unwilling to heal and to seek brotherhood, to focus on the progress made and the efforts expended.  Some seem invested in the divide, to pursue it for their own selfish, even hateful, objectives.

Frankly, some perpetuate division for political gain and that is utterly shameful. Yet, we are unwilling to be sharply critical of such destructive conduct when it should, in a decent society, be simply unwelcome.

For some racism has become an explanation for all things, all shortcomings – personal and collective.  Yet, are we not all capable of overcoming obstacles?  Have we not all faced them and worked to prevail against them?

Look around – people with physical disabilities succeed, badly injured vets succeed, immigrants succeed, people from the wrong side of the tracks succeed.

Haitians come to this country and within one generation have income levels equal to the general population.

God makes us for achievement, for overcoming obstacles – and when the government stays out of our way, we do advance individually and collectively, assuming we make the right personal choices, and work our tail off.

I offer this, only this today –

Lord, forgive us our sins especially for slavery –

help each of us to live as brothers and sisters, to love as You love – to help and to forgive as we are so often forgiven

Grow our hearts and open our arms

Put us to the task of living to glorify You, no matter the apparent obstacle

Give us healing words and the courage to pursue good deeds, selflessly and with humility –

give us the strength to regret most deeply all that we have done to diminish others and, in that, ourselves and You

Silence in us what divides and excludes

Lead us to glorify You in our suffering and our joy

We ask this in the name of your Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Amen.

May we all be renewed in faith and love this Thanksgiving Day.

Shalom.

A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.

Gen. George Patton

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Amid the rumbling, stumbling, bumbling process of responding to the threat we face it might be wise to think of the value of expeditious use of power and force. Sad as it is, evil may require a prompt response.

We need only think of Niccolo Machiavelli’s The Prince to clear our head and comprehend what General Patton was saying in the above quote.

Here are just a sample of the real world wisdom and practical advice that Machiavelli provides. You might see its ageless wisdom.

On presence in a foreign land: when the Romans had a presence in foreign territories they worked with the less powerful groups rather than the most powerful group in order to gain stability by keeping two competing groups occupied with one another.

On prospective discord of groups in the lands they occupied: the Romans were vigilant and faced prospective adversaries immediately, recognizing that delay made a manageable problem far less so.

On foreign problems: when evil is brewing it is more easily cured than when it is in full blossom.

On avoiding war: attending to disorders as they begin to form avoids war at a later point.

On ignoring disorders that are adverse to your interest and security: to defer is always to the advantage of the adversary, and to your own disadvantage.

On war when it must be waged: it is better to fight on another’s territory than your own.

No one wishes to fight.  It is not our finest activity.  Yet, history tells us that from time to time we will do just that.

There is in matters of security, as there is in many things we face, a real value to NOT “kicking the can down the road.”  Indecision and deferral are not helpful. Deciding what must be done and doing it decisively and with intent and speed is to be preferred.

Sadly, we find ourselves at times engaged in the most regrettable situations. The world requires our attention, and life and the world always requires our prayers.

How wonderful it might be that we encounter only what is good.  Alas that is not the case.  Rather, Western Civilization and our faith are the target of those who wish us ill and show this in their conduct.  We have every right to expect that those who claim to lead us will respond competently, quickly and completely in the face of those who desire to destroy us.

May we find those among us who lead wisely.  May we engage in building bridges when and where we can.

Shalom.

…. Jesus was deeply troubled and testified, “Amen, amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.”

Jn 13:21

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Even Jesus was shaken by betrayal.

Why is that?  There is something so injurious about betrayal and it is this: betrayal mars trust and trust is the foundation of love and of a full, joyous and free life.

We cannot love without giving ourselves fully to another.  Love relies on trust, a full commitment to another who you trust with your heart.

What might we do when we are betrayed?  It depends.  Each case is distinct to the one whose trust is violated.  Much depends on the actions of the one who breached your trust.

Jesus shows us something of how we might react to a breach of trust.  Both Judas and Peter betrayed Jesus.  Judas did so my arranging the apprehension of Jesus by his adversaries who desired his death.  Peter denied three times that he knew Jesus after Jesus was arrested.  Peter, however, did not abandon Jesus fully and in the resurrected Christ’s presence affirmed three times that he loved Jesus.  Judas, on the other hand, was unable to face Christ and committed suicide.

What might we learn from this?  Peter did not abandon the remnant of faith he possessed.  Judas, on the contrary, acted devoid of faith and paid a heavy price of self-inflicted death as a result.

My point is this: faith matters when one is betrayed.  Faith plays a vital role in the one betrayed and the one who betrays.  If faith is present in each, trust may be repaired.  If the betrayer, however, does not contain faith, then it is hard to expect trust to be restored.  You might ask: “Why?”

Those with faith can honestly look at themselves and reckon candidly and completely what they did and why.  They, unlike those without faith, can resurrect trust from the humility and regret that befalls them when they recognize what they have done.  In effect, in that situation, the betrayer is as hurt by his or her deeds as the one who is betrayed.

Do not be discouraged.  Seek faith and seek the company of those who live in faith.

Shalom.

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