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… the Light has come into the world, and men have chosen darkness rather than Light, for their deeds were evil.  For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.  But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought by God. (Emphasis added.)

Jn 3: 19, 20, 21

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I have been focusing on the Gospel of John and the teachings that Jesus brings us in it.  I do so for a particular reason and it is this: we in the United States, especially among elites – those of privilege … including the media and entertainment class, lawyers and the judiciary, and university teachers and administrators, have lost contact with God, or have rejected God, religious narrative and Christ and this underlies all of our problems and our deteriorating public discourse and the reduced quality of those serving in public life.

Spirlaw is a blog about faith and culture.  About the intersection between faith and the culture in which we live.  There is no moral guide without faith and religious narrative.

The loss of recognition of faith’s invaluable importance to a healthy culture is crippling, destabilizing.  In its absence all sorts of ideas and wants are pushed forward without a glimmer of depth or understanding.  The subsequent foolishness is and can be both costly and utterly destructive.  We seem to have adequately demonstrated this quite clearly in the last five to six decades.

We are unhealthy, divided, crude and increasingly ignorant and wasteful.

Things have got to change.  We must return to the source of our wisdom and humanity – to faith – knowledge of it and life lived in it.

Look at the above words.  Read them.  Pause to think about them.

Do you see evil in this culture?  Among the most vocal advocates?  Or do you see good? Light?  Is faith banished or welcome?  Is God dismissed or welcome? Is Light manifest?

Or does one hear actors and celebrities, elected officials even – talking hatefully and doing so without hesitation?  Is the media truthful or are they not?

Those who are not truthful are not of the Light.  They destroy and there is no reason to give them ear.

Shalom.

Common Mistake – I recently watched an interesting report on the BBC about suicide among homosexuals.  The claim was made that it is a serious problem and that its cause is the denial of equality.

The common mistake?  Not all matters and forms of human behavior depend on “equality.”

There is far more to a healthy life than “equality.”  It is not the essence of human existence.

Indeed “equality” is invoked by political advocates without any evidence that they have studied the concept.  They use “equality” in an undifferentiated way.   Big mistake.  A mistake of ignorance.

The result in this case is this: neither “equality” nor suicide are understood.

Our ignorance grows seemingly in direct proportion to the growth of educational institutions and budget increases in education.

Happy Father’s Day

Fatherhood is at the core of the universe, at the center of being and its mystery.  Shame on those who ignore their children for the damage done and the opportunity lost.

Grandpa Bobby Bob

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So it is Father’s Day.  You know I looked for a quote that might sum up fatherhood.  Didn’t find one, and doubt that I could.  Fatherhood is larger than all the words known to us.

Fatherhood has a mystical quality to it.  One is father in ways that are more than merely intellectual.  No, fatherhood resides and operates in the realm of mystery.  Fatherhood introduces a man to supernatural reality.  When one attends to his children – God is visible, eternity exists and everlasting love takes its form.  Fatherhood stretches into time, from here to time immortal.

Fatherhood transforms.  I give you proof.

Acquiring the experience of another person is one of the hardest things one might do, love notwithstanding.  Yet, I have seen my son come to fully understand me when he himself became a father to two beautiful children (one a toddler, one an infant – a boy and a girl – a prince and a princess, if you don’t mind).

Try as I might have to convey to him how important he was to me – when he became a father he understood what I tried to impart as to his importance to me.  Now he “gets it.” Now, I get that unexpected call from him to ask: “Dad, are you okay?  Just called to see how you are.”  And I get, “Love you, Dad.” Yes, love unites us in ways that make son and father best friends forever, inseparable, indivisible.

I tell my friends, I have seen my son transformed by becoming a father, and a very good Dad at that: engaged, loving, calm, instructive, helpful, gentle, thoughtful, playful, guiding, a giant “best friend” to two Little People … a giant with a soft voice and an endless supply of hugs and kisses.

His Ph.D. notwithstanding, I tell him and his wife that what they do as parents is the most important thing they will ever do.  I see in his two Cupcakes – contentment, ease, comfort, confidence in their young explorations – wonders in their eyes and smiles on their faces, love and joy in their every breath.

My son’s fatherhood anoints me Grandpa Bobby Bob (as I am so named by Grandson Jack, not yet three).  Life has no greater honor for a man than to be Dad and then Grandpa.

Fatherhood transforms.  It is in the mystery of life – more than sociological designation or a name on a birth certificate, more than a formality … it is a blessing bestowed on us by design, an opportunity of a lifetime, a source of meaning now and forever.

Happy Father’s Day!

If we wish to see a strong and good society – let all men who have children be first and foremost: good and responsible fathers.  Life’s problems are fewer to those who have been well-fathered.  Men, do your sacred job – your children and this nation depend on it.

Shalom.

 

 

… in every society where the distinction of ranks has once been completely established, there have been always two different … systems of morality current at the same time; … one may be called the strict … the other the liberal, or … the loose system.  The former admired and revered by the common people, the latter … by … people of fashion.  (Emphasis added.)

Adam Smith, in The Wealth of Nations

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This is Smith writing in 1776.  His book had a huge impact.  Its date coincided with the founding of the United States.

What Smith said then is as useful now as it has been over the last 241 years. Smith knew people.  He knew power, and he knew politics.

What he said then is visible to us today.

We have groomed a collection of elites.  These are the privileged people – the super-rich and the very affluent.  We see them in national politics, among ex-Presidents, on the bench, in the media, in entertainment, among those newly wealthy in the computer and internet industry, within the highly-educated class and in the tenured positions at once prestigious colleges.

These are people who live well above the income level of the common person – their morals are not the morals of common people.  Regrettably their privileged lives convince them that they know better than the commoners and that this licenses them to enforce their morals (such as they are) on the rest of us … along with their public policies.

Ah, but their interests are not our interests.  They do not suffer when factory jobs disappear and when small towns no longer present a place to work and raise a family free of addictions, dependency and hopelessness.

This privileged class manifests less need for faith than the commoner.  Hence, their morals are unlike the commoner.  Surely not better, but rather uniquely destructive, divisive and unhealthy.

As Adams says so well, the morals of the privileged are ruinous …  and because they are wealthy, the elites can sustain years of disorder far longer than the commoner.

That said, when a nation loses its identity to illegal invaders, when abortion is a form of “birth control,” and the spread of terrorism takes the life of innocents, of children and unarmed men and women – the time for the loose morals and destructive policies and preferences of elites comes to an end.  THIS IS BRIXET AND THE HILLARY CLINTON AND DEMOCRATIC DEFEAT AT THE POLLS.  This is how one explains that the Democrats captured only 64 of the over 3000 counties in the U.S. in the last presidential election.

The heinous photo of a minor female “entertainer” holding the severed head of President Trump tells you three important things: one, the morals of the privileged are not the morals of the common person; two, the curve is bending back on the Liberals (the privileged class in both political parties) and their attitudes and disposition; and three, the relentless attacks on the President are the elites clutching at control, attempting to retain power at all costs … power over the common person.

Ah, but the times may well be changing.

Shalom.

Delight in smooth sounding platitudes, refusal to face unpleasant facts … the utter devotion of the Liberals to sentiment apart from reality … played a definite part in unleashing upon the world … horrors and miseries (World War II).

Winston S. Churchill, in The Gathering Storm

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Wars have their prelude, their component miscues and misadventures, their self-delusions and grand deceits.

One thinks of this now as many troubling signs emerge.

Russia is in Syria propping up a brutal regime, Iran pursues both nuclear weapons and expansion while supporting insurgents in foreign lands, North Korea strives for a nuclear arsenal and European countries seed authority to stateless Brussels bureaucrats while terrorists roam their homeland largely unabated.

In the United States, we enlarge the national debt, fatten the dependent population and the expand the expectations of citizens for more and more national benefits.

Some European nations are beginning to resume required national military service, yet attention turns to “global warming” as if nothing is more important. Fantasies absorb us.

In our once mature and sane representative democracy, college students require pampering and “protection” from free speech while some assault civility and those with whom they disagree.  On campus, hate is protected by cowardly administrators.

In the public square God is unwelcome while obesity looms and one wonders where the next “Greatest Generation” has gone.

As Churchill rightly notices, the antics of the Liberals pave a nasty road to a tragic destination.

Hard to dispute this today.  Indeed, we have lost touch with truth, and consequently, with reality.  But neither truth nor reality have lost touch with us.

At the foundation of moral thinking lie beliefs in statements the truth of which no further reason can be given.

Alasdair MacIntyre, in After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory

When immorality prevails, we have stopped believing … without belief, truth and reality are lost and the storm gathers.

Shalom.

Postscript – An “unfunny”* female “comic” thought it amusing to be photographed holding the “head” of President Donald Trump.  Darling …

It is, thank God, always the case that people “self-report” – tell you who they are. So with this woman we see the Left is quite comfortable with those who behead their enemies. Charming …

(* “unfunny” is a state of being whereby a person does not have a humorous impulse in their body … if you see these people coming, run quickly in the opposite direction … if you encountered them in a social setting, make yourself disappear as soon as possible)

Excarnation … the process by which religion is dis-embodied and de-ritualized.

James. K.A. Smith, in How (Not) to Be Secular

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The challenge we face in America and the West is excarnation.  The question posed: will we believe or will we not?

Failing to believe in God, we shall all the same rely on something to anchor us. That something might be our gender, or our sexual behavior, an ideology, our self to the exclusion of all others, or nothing at all …

Yesterday, little was said by American mass media of the killing of a bus load of Egyptian Coptic Christian mothers and children on their way to a monastic retreat. Why, you might ask?

The answer is really quite simple – those who govern media are excarnated.  They do not believe.  Religion does not matter to them … or to the Democrat and “progressive” Left politicians, by the way.  It is worth noting that Senator Schumer did not pop up on T.V. to rant about the killing of these innocent, unarmed believers.  Granny Pelosi was absent, too.  No surprise really. Remember, candidate Obama referred to believers as those who cling to the guns and the Bible … and Hillary thinks of believers as “unredeemable.”

The Left does not hide its hostility, nor its ignorance.

If you want to know what is at the core of the hatred of Donald Trump – it is not Trump himself but those who voted for him and their beliefs.  Religious belief is an obstacle to the pagan practices and policies of the Left.  The core of today’s problem in our nation and the West centers on belief.  

Incarnation or excarnation?

Shalom.

… the time was approaching … when the Ego … would be mere putty in the hands of something much larger than any human being … a strangely impersonal (and inhuman) construction of social and political reality, that would have enormous, compelling, even definitive sway over all within its grasp … the state’s (moral and political) power (would) become for the individual a commanding and pervasive presence … enforcing its institutional will on … all … (Emphasis added.)

Robert Coles, M.D., in Secular Mind

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In the above Dr. Coles, an esteemed research psychiatrist who held three endowed chairs at Harvard University, is commenting on George Orwell’s classic 1984 (written in 1948) in which Orwell foretold of man’s loss of self to the state and its impersonal and often brutal, a-spiritual, conforming power.

We are, of course, precisely where Coles said we would be in his 1999 book –A Secular Mind.

We are – notwithstanding, the useless, uneducated, destructive chatter of “talking heads,” newspaper editorial boards, Leftists intellectuals, “progressive” politicos, feminist and sexual “special pleaders,” the mindless celebrity class, and misplaced vaudevilleans of late night television – just a Coles predicted … at risk of losing our Self.

The problem we face is not merely political.  No, it is far more.  It is cultural.  As cultural, it is fundamental.  It poses this question: what is and shall be a fully developed human being?

In particular, the force of the state on the human being always invokes this question: what is it to be human?

Of course, the history of the Communists’ gulags and the adjacent death camps of totalitarian states tells us that centralized, ideological governments and politics never advance the fullness of the human person.  Their concern is control of the mass, not the sacred reality of being a human being.  Hence, all central states (our behemoth included) incline to homogenize and reduce the human to dependent or servant and in doing so they seek to reduce the role of faith, exile God and curtail religious freedom.

The impulse which elected Trump is the impulse to salvage human existence in the face of the growth of the central state.  The hatred this has stirred up on the Left and among the statists Republicans (i.e., globalists, and vested elites) and those who make their very nice living as media handmaids of the governing class is precisely a defense of the large state and its imposition on the human person and critical subversion of faith and spiritual existence.  Think, for example, of the Obama IRS which took active, lawless aim at religious tax exempt citizen organizations.

That is where we are …and I add I see no one in mass communication culture who has called this to the fore.  Rather, I see debates over this or that policy, the appointment of this or that person to do X or Y.

We have a more comprehensive problem … one requiring a broader scope of intellect and a greater knowledge of psychiatric welfare and spiritual development.

Alas, the politicos and media-types are least likely to possess anything like the knowledge, experience, insights or analytical tools to navigate us through very troubled and dangerous waters.

We have an interesting challenge in the present moment.  The discussion must be broader than politics.  It must be cultural and fundamental.

Shalom.

Happy Mother’s Day

Mother’s civilize men and society.  My Mother saved my life.  I think of her everyday.  Maybe someday women will come to understand and cherish this: as birth-givers they are more important than men.  Seeking equality with men is a step down.  We have lesser gifts.  God bless Moms!

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There is a deep malaise in society … in our families and neighborhoods we do not speak to each other … There is … a vacuum inside us …

Thich Nhat Hanh, in Living Buddha, Living Christ

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Today I read an article about how parents of young men and women offer obituaries of their sons and daughters that candidly acknowledge the opiate use which took their life in the hope that with an honest statement about a very tragic and very serious national problem we might awaken to this deadly addiction.

Where might we begin?

There are many strands to this epidemic.  Of course, we have been very lax in   proscribing the use of painkillers.

Indeed, three months ago when I was being discharged from the hospital after knee replacement surgery, the nurse overseeing my discharge informed me I was to get a prescription for a powerful and potentially addictive painkiller even though I had had no pain and required no pain medicine after the operation.  I refused the offer over the nurse’s suggestion that I take the prescription “just in case.”

Yes, we routinely throw drugs into the mix for just about anything that “ails” us.

But I turn to Thich Naht Hanh’s point.  We do not stand on spiritual ground; we have little understanding of spirituality and, in this, life seems to lack meaning. We float or stumble about without a secure base, the inner strength and the resolve.

Hanh’s concern is that the elders in culture do not convey, do not project – values that display and confirm spiritual existence.

He notes that even priests do not  “embody the living tradition” of their professed faith. When this is so, ritual loses meaning – and worship seems thin – more ceremony than deep, lasting experience.

The elders of our culture had best renew their faith and renew it at depth, so they might daily convey its presence in all that they do, how they conduct their affairs and how determinative spiritual existence is to all they think and do.

The malaise has taken a huge toll on us – from opiate addiction, to broken marriages, abortion, coarse public behavior, gender and sexual confusion, political hostility and division, crass self-promotion and selfishness, the crude quest for money and status … All this while we neglect the spirit and our spiritual needs and development.

We are far less than we once were and can be.  Hanh is right.  Starting with spiritual existence is fundamental to our welfare, and survival.  Elders must show the way. Parents must lead, faith be restored.

Shalom.

May Saturday 7:40 a.m.  The pale, faint gray-blue sky provides a autumn presence and a cool wind.  Yo Yo Ma keeps me company.  The pastures and the forest are green from rain and the cows and newborn calves slowly eat their way down the slope.  

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… the tradition of Christian spirituality and mystical wisdom needs to be presented today …

Thomas Keating, in The Heart of the World

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When I look around the world, when I observe or interact with others in America today – I see, hear and experience flatness.  That is to say, I see people and hear discourse that is blunt, without depth or texture, message or coherence, insight or worth.  Yes, the human voice is reduced to superficial chirping and chatter, childish whining and predictable ideologically-formed complaint and carping.

This: the voice of those who have not integrated life – come to know and experience reality seen and unseen.  For them any thought of human experience itself as transcendent and immanent is lost or at least forgotten.  I conclude in this that Keating is right: we need to attend to our spiritual growth and its implicit depth and access to wisdom – and particularly that which is mystical in nature – that which exceeds scientific materialism or a lust for power, celebrity, status or identity tied to gender, sexuality, politics, grievance, class, race, economic measure or government “benefit” which always defines us down, reduces our dignity and sacred value.

We are not, at present, close to being a nation of integrated, whole, wise, meaningful and purposeful human beings.  Rather we are flat and unflattering in this flatness.

To be flat is to be without curve, of one plane, shallow and without depth, unvarying, uninteresting, dull, vapid, stale, deflated, monotonous.  And I add mundane.

We are (and have been for some time) inclined in the wrong direction – living on the surface and tilted toward mere material and self-centered existence and far, far from spiritual experience and the depth, insight and contentment it alone provides.

In affluence we have lost our value, access to ourself and divine experience.  Our health and survival requires that this must change.  Our present circumstances starve the soul and lead to extinction.  Any wonder that homicides, suicides, addictions, broken families, and a range of pagan pursuits prevail as they do today?

Shalom.

Christianity is not a matter of opinion, but an external fact, entering into, carried out in, indivisible from, the history of the world.

John Henry Newman, in Difficulties of the Anglicans

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From the first Eucharist to now there has not been one hour in the history of the world that someone, somewhere has not been receiving the Body and Blood of Christ.

I have recently been watching the recorded conversations between William Buckley and Malcolm Muggeridge, each Christian – each Catholic.  The conversations date back to the 1970’s and 1980’s.  They are fascinating.  They probe, in part, the dismissal of belief and of Christianity by many.  They lament its loss and deplore the consequences that result.

I, too, have been alarmed and actually surprised how many in the United States and in Europe can dismiss Christianity and pin their hopes on collectivism, socialism – two impulses, and schemes, that nowhere have shown success, or produced excellence of any sort.  Gulags, yes – they have done well to imprison their charge, produce totalitarian regimes and execute millions when it proved “necessary” in order for one man or small group to retain power.  But success, harmony and wellbeing it has not furthered.

I think we do not know and appreciate the gifts of Christianity.  Likewise, I think that when we dismiss Christianity, we cancel what is unique and humanizing in the history of the world, what orders reality to the Truth about humans, and human existence and excellence.

I give but one example and it comes from Plato.  Plato, whose thoughts are infused into Christianity, opined that one was not to look to the immediate and the everyday but rather to focus on the universal and the ultimate.  He shifted human focus to a larger spectrum.  In this, Plato shifted our view of reality to the soul where excellence and virtue resided.  He saw this as the way to the Supreme Soul that is God – the ultimate in excellence and virtue.

Plato also envision that God’s nature was oneness and goodness.  In this, human life was linked to morality and to divinity, to God.

Each of these propositions are housed in Christianity.  Yet, can you imagine how easily we come to dismiss Christianity (actually oppose it) without anyone posing competent inquiry to those who blithely deny Christianity and the existence of God?  This seems to me a scandal and a reflection of widespread ignorance and the abject failure of our educational system.  Indeed, better to have no schools given what they produce.

We are, it seems to me, reckless and ignorant at the present moment.

Today, one longs for an intelligent and fervent defense of Christ, Christianity, our heritage, and the existence of God … but in its place we talk of access to “potties” and fixate on trivia and sexual fetishes, government subsidizes and this or that bacchanal.

Having seen all my life the lunacy of institutions and those who are apt to command them, even I am amazed at what I now see as the disordered nonsense of most public conversation and politics.  Where, oh where, is there a hint of Plato or Newman???

Shalom.

Dear Friend’s Correction – My Dear (and very bright and truly lovely) Friend Carol commented that I may not (in the text) be correct in saying the Eucharist has been shared hourly somewhere since its inception.  She may be right.  (I am always willing to defer to smart people who are earnest and very nice – I’d be a fool to rely on my our limitations.)  FYI – in my comment in the text, I rely on a point made by Malcolm Muggeridge in his conversation with Bill Buckley on Firing Line – a comment that went unimpeached.  By regard for Carol and my assessment of my own limitations allow me to place Carol above Buckley and Muggeridge.  Tally ho!

The agony of breaking through personal limitations is the agony of spiritual growth.

Joseph Campbell, in The Hero of a Thousand Faces

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We live so that we might grow in wisdom and understanding become fully human and in this come to know God and in that know both meaning and purpose.

Alas many opt for not growing.  They reside exclusively in their ego and stand on the smallest plot of life and land.  Without growth they are godless and utterly destructive of self and others.  They are a common bunch and the worse among them attack and diminish the mere thought of faith – particularly Christianity and, of course, the West and its Civilization.

We have many godless and dumb in our midst.  In their unchecked ignorance they attack what is time-tested and good.  Without morals, they know not good from evil.  We give them far too much attention.  When Believers are fewer in number, their voices soften when they should be the loudest and the strongest … for the ignorant threaten survival having long ago crippled civility.

We would be wise to anchor ourselves to Truth.

Recall if you will the end of Dante’s Paradiso when Bernard beckoned Dante look upward and Dante reports that he had already fixed his eyes on the lofty Light “in which Itself is true.”  Further, he notes that his vision was greater than speech … this Light “Different it is from all that are known … beyond the unknown as well.”

We are in decline.  We think we know more than we do.  Truth is: we have dumbed-down.  Most of what you hear is nonsense.  Many that you meet are disordered – to be avoided and when that is not possible we must correct, challenge, confront.

Few realize the coin we see has two sides: one our destruction, the other our rebirth. The mad crowd of the badly mistaken delivers the former, while the faithful few know rebirth … yet, who speaks loudest, whose voices multiply and go unchecked?

A faithful one speaks.  Silence is collaboration.

Shalom.

Observation – President Trump would be wise to worship regularly.  We need to see faith in play.  The divide we know how requires that his leadership be tethered to his faith, our faith – that indispensable place of faith in life, culture and governance.  Let the godless Left be clearly visible – make them carry their destructive and godless ways and see if the public at-large wishes to be housed in their small and unseaworthy boat.

Please share this post with others if you are so inclined.

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