Charlie's Blog: May 2016

5.31.2016

Government: Limited and Unlimited


The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
TENTH AMENDMENT TO THE U.S. CONSTITUTION

I believe that most people are conservative. They just don't know it. They never bothered to reflect on it. They may care more about politics than political philosophy. They may vote for people on the basis of a soundbite or whether they have a full head of hair. This shallow thinking is what produces the mess we find ourselves in today. The way out is to be conservative, and I usually convince people to identify as conservatives by asking very elemental questions. In this essay, the question is this. Do you believe in limited or unlimited government?

A progressive is someone who believes in unlimited government. There is no sphere of life that they do not believe government cannot intrude upon. They may pay lip service to staying out of a mother's womb in defense of baby killing or staying out of a bedroom in defense of sodomy, but these are cynical arguments to be discarded later such as when they want to allow perverts into the women's restroom.

Sane people believe that there should be limits on government. They may disagree on what those limits should be, but they still believe in principle that there should be spheres of life where government does not belong. This is the cornerstone of conservatism. Once this cornerstone is laid, everything flows from there. If you believe in limited government, you are a conservative.

The enemies of conservatism are those people who champion unlimited government. Why do they champion unlimited government? This is because they think they have the solution to all problems. The only problem is getting compliance with those solutions. This is where government becomes their blunt instrument. When 100% compliance is reached, you have Utopia! We recognize non-compliance as "freedom." Progressives are the enemies of freedom.

Freedom is a bad thing to progressives because people make bad choices. This is why people can't be trusted with freedom. They are too stupid to know what is good for them. But this argument becomes self-defeating when you point out the follies and failures of government. You may do a bad job of running your life, but government usually does it worse.

If you believe in limited government, you are already heading down the road to conservatism. Before you know it, you will be reading the US Constitution, The Federalist Papers, and Russell Kirk. I know. There are many more arguments to be made between here and there. But if you side with limited government, you are pointed in the right direction.


5.30.2016

In Memory Of Those Who Gave All


Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God.
INSCRIPTION ON THE TOMB OF THE UNKNOWNS

The body that lies in rest in the Tomb of the Unknowns belongs to a solider who died in WWI. We do not know his name because the madness of war makes it impossible to identify many of the dead. This solider and his tomb has become the memorial to all those who die in war who cannot be identified. May God grant rest to their souls.

Today is Memorial Day when this country honors those who paid the ultimate sacrifice in defense of this country and what she stands for. We can only repay them with honor since we cannot give to them all that they gave to us. The least we can do to make their sacrifices not be in vain is to be a good and honorable nation.

How does our nation remember our fallen today? With this:


It just blows my mind that the scum of this nation would do this. This is where we are at as a country. The sacrifice of these noble men and women has been nothing more than a street canvas for thugs to desecrate at will. I sincerely wish they made such a crime a felony punishable by at least a decade in federal prison.

We are not a good nation. When this is the repayment we give to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for us, what does that say about this country? Why would anyone fight for this country today? This is what sacrifice is worth today. You die for this country, and it will mock and ridicule you in death. This is an abomination.

This country needs to get back to a certain level of respect. We need to honor God, families, the flag, the Constitution, and those who served and died in defense of our country. I lay the current moral decline at the feet of our political leaders who have turned everything we believe in into so much cynical game playing for the sake of money and power. The worst enemy we have today is us.

For all those who have fallen and those who have served, thank you for all that you have done. You are the best that America produced, and I appreciate all that you have done. My prayer is that others will also have the same appreciation.

5.29.2016

Travails of the Grand Old Party


The Republican and Democratic parties both feed out of the same bag provided by the monied system, and where the list frequently differs the same interests are represented.
GEORGE SELDES

To say the rise of Donald Trump has caused some concern among the Republican establishment is to understate the seismic shift that has happened in the Grand Old Party. The simple fact is that the GOP has been deluged by a gang of party crashers who will break the furniture, bust out the windows, drown the cat, and leave the toilet backed up and overflowing as the living room and front lawn are littered with beer cans and liquor bottles. Trumpism has arrived like a judgment from Almighty God, and the Republican Party has no one to blame but itself.

How did things get to this sorry state of affairs? The answer can be summed up in two words--Mitt Romney. Mitt was a terrible choice back in 2012 and blew an election that should have been won easily. In that defeat, the Trump campaign was born. Donald Trump had supported Mitt Romney, but Romney lost mostly by his own incompetence. He didn't even try to win. So, Trump decided to do what Romney could not do. Trump decided to win.

It is important to keep these two in mind because their fight is ongoing even as I write this. Bill Kristol is practically begging Romney to run third party to ensure that Trump loses to Hillary. The fact that someone like Kristol would rather see Hillary as president instead of Donald Trump says a lot. Forgotten in this melee are Ted Cruz and his supporters who lost this round but will continue to fight on.

There are essentially two camps within the GOP. The first and most powerful camp is the Establishment that is comprised of mostly big government Republicans and neoconservatives. They are best represented by the Bushes, a dynasty of Establishment nasties. This Establishment group goes way back in the history of the GOP before Goldwater and Reagan. Their main interest is money. That's about it. Policies that advance the interests of these moneyed factions are what the Establishment is all about.

The second and less powerful camp are the conservatives. These are the Goldwater/Reagan people. They care more about ideas and liberty and religion than they do about money. You have a smattering of libertarians, Ron Paul types, and Pat Buchananites, but they tend to ally with these true conservatives. These people found a place in the Republican Party primarily because of the disgrace of Richard Nixon and the humiliation of Gerald Ford who pardoned him. This made it possible for Ronald Reagan to come in over the hackles of the Establishment and to literally change this country and the world. Reagan remains the greatest president in my living memory. His greatest mistake was in picking George H.W. Bush to be his running mate as a way to keep peace in the party.

When Bush the Elder became president, he allowed the Establishment to get back in charge.  Despite having the Reagan legacy behind him and a fresh victory in Desert Storm, Bush was a popular president that could not lose but managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. This was not because of a philandering governor from Arkansas so much as the efforts of this man:


H. Ross Perot was the proto-Trump. He was Donald Trump before there was a Donald Trump. If you,listen to Perot's speeches, he touches on the same issues as Trump does today. Perot would cost Bush the election and do similar damage to Bob Dole in 1996. These same people who supported Perot would also go on to support guys like Jesse Ventura and Pat Buchanan. As third party candidates, these Perot people could not win a national election, but they had the numbers to spoil that election. This is where Donald Trump comes in.

Trump tapped into these people who tend to be blue collar and anti-establishment. The genius of Trump is that he convinced these people to vote in Republican caucuses and primaries. Most Republicans don't want Trump, but they couldn't stop fighting amongst themselves to support a better candidate like Ted Cruz. Now, at this stage of game, they are stuck with Trump. He is going to be their guy whether they want him or not. Where did the Republican Party go wrong to end up with this clown?

In all of this lurks the ghost of Ronald Reagan. The simple fact is that the GOP has not seen a man like him since he left the White House. Every presidential candidate since has been an Establishment candidate. Establishment candidates provoke hostility and a sense of frustration among those who are conservative. The Tea Party was an outgrowth of this frustration. Tea Partiers are the true conservatives, and their guy this time around was Ted Cruz. Cruz is the closest thing the GOP has had to another Ronald Reagan. He should have beaten Trump, but the Establishment refused to embrace Cruz in much the same way they never embraced Ronald Reagan. Now, they are going to pay for it.

There is actually very little difference between Trump and the Establishment types. That is the irony of it all. Ultimately, they are about money. The difference is in perspective. Establishment Republicans are global in their thinking. Trump, like Perot before him, is a nationalist. If you consider the three groups together, you have globalists, nationalists, and patriots. What's the difference?

Globalists are married to an agenda that sees the USA as either the leader or a prime component of a global empire. This is why neoconservatives find common cause with the Establishment and explains Bill Kristol's man crush on Mitt Romney. These people want to run the world. Without a doubt, these people are evil. They are the Empire.

Nationalists want to retreat from the world stage and concentrate effort within the borders of Fortress America. This is why Trump keeps talking about that wall on the southern border. That wall is a potent symbol of what Trump wants. It is also why he finds so much sympathy for Vladimir Putin. Basically, Trump wants to put America first. This is why that slogan about making America Great Again is so catchy because it is about America. It isn't about the UN or the American Empire.

Patriots are different. There is a key difference between nationalism and patriotism. Nationalism is wedded to a country. Patriotism is wedded to a set of principles and ideas. Nationalism and globalism are merely flavors of fascism. Patriotism simply believes in liberty. Conservatism is patriotism which is a belief in limited government, free enterprise, Christian virtue, and ordered liberty. These are the things which actually made America great. Unfortunately, the one guy who talked about these things just dropped out of the race.

What has consumed the Republican Party is a form of political nihilism that has rejected patriotism. The GOP has not really stood for anything since Reagan except to pay lip service to a few conservative issues like abortion which they ignore once in power. This cynicism amongst the Establishment was all that a guy like Trump needed to walk in and crash the party. As C.S. Lewis put it, "We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst." Trump is that traitor that their mockery of honor has produced.

Where does the GOP go from here? That is simple. They will dance with Trump. Trump will hurt them in their most sensitive spots--their wallets. I prefer nationalism to globalism, so I am willing to go with Trump over the Establishment. But I really want to see the GOP become the party of conservatism and patriotism again. Sometimes, you need a nightmare to wake you up. Trump is that nightmare.

E/E


King Rehoboam consulted with the elders who had served his father Solomon while he was still alive, saying, “How do you counsel me to answer this people?” 

Then they spoke to him, saying, “If you will be a servant to this people today, and will serve them and grant them their petition, and speak good words to them, then they will be your servants forever.”

But he forsook the counsel of the elders which they had given him, and consulted with the young men who grew up with him and served him. So he said to them, “What counsel do you give that we may answer this people who have spoken to me, saying, ‘Lighten the yoke which your father put on us’?”

The young men who grew up with him spoke to him, saying, “Thus you shall say to this people who spoke to you, saying, ‘Your father made our yoke heavy, now you make it lighter for us!’

But you shall speak to them, ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s loins! Whereas my father loaded you with a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke; my father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions."
1 KINGS 12:6-11 NASB

There are basically two types of leaders. There are those you embrace, and there are those you endure. To give an example, I embraced Ronald Reagan in my teens. I endure Barack Obama in my middle age. The truth is that I have endured virtually every president except Reagan. I would love to see another Ronald Reagan, but I am naive to think his kind will come again.

In the Old Testament, the nation of Israel had a similar embrace/endure thing. They had embraced King David, but they had endured King Solomon. By the time Rehoboam took the throne, they wanted a break. Being a fool, Rehoboam promised to be even worse than his father. Ten of the twelve tribes revolted and followed Jeroboam instead. The civil war that ensued would be a permanent break that lasts until the present day with those breakaway Israelites becoming the hated Samaritans you read about in the New Testament.

Without a doubt, Rehoboam was a fool. But the promises rested with him and his descendants. This would be the line that would bring us Jesus of Nazareth. As for Jeroboam, 1 Kings 12 relates which way he went:
Then Jeroboam built Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim, and lived there. And he went out from there and built Penuel. Jeroboam said in his heart, “Now the kingdom will return to the house of David. If this people go up to offer sacrifices in the house of the Lord at Jerusalem, then the heart of this people will return to their lord, even to Rehoboam king of Judah; and they will kill me and return to Rehoboam king of Judah.” 
So the king consulted, and made two golden calves, and he said to them, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem; behold your gods, O Israel, that brought you up from the land of Egypt.” 
He set one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan. Now this thing became a sin, for the people went to worship before the one as far as Dan. And he made houses on high places, and made priests from among all the people who were not of the sons of Levi. Jeroboam instituted a feast in the eighth month on the fifteenth day of the month, like the feast which is in Judah, and he went up to the altar; thus he did in Bethel, sacrificing to the calves which he had made. And he stationed in Bethel the priests of the high places which he had made. Then he went up to the altar which he had made in Bethel on the fifteenth day in the eighth month, even in the month which he had devised in his own heart; and he instituted a feast for the sons of Israel and went up to the altar to burn incense. 
1 KINGS 12:25-33 NASB
Jeroboam was popular, but he knew he had erred. By rebelling, he had forfeited Jerusalem and the Temple. He had forsaken God. Knowing this would not end well, he instituted a new religion of idolatry to serve as a counterfeit to the true religion given through Moses. So, there you have it. You have a popular leader embraced by the people who lead them into error while the unpopular leader was the Lord's anointed that He picked. Why did God do this? The same chapter gives us a clue:
Thus says the Lord, “You must not go up and fight against your relatives the sons of Israel; return every man to his house, for this thing has come from Me.” So they listened to the word of the Lord, and returned and went their way according to the word of the Lord. 
1 KINGS 12:24 NASB
Basically, sticking with the unpopular and stupid Rehoboam was a test of obedience. If you believed in the Lord, you did not have the option to go with Jeroboam. Your fortunes and life were with Rehoboam. And Rehoboam was an awful king. Here is what he did:
Now Rehoboam the son of Solomon reigned in Judah. Rehoboam was forty-one years old when he became king, and he reigned seventeen years in Jerusalem, the city which the Lord had chosen from all the tribes of Israel to put His name there. And his mother’s name was Naamah the Ammonitess. Judah did evil in the sight of the Lord, and they provoked Him to jealousy more than all that their fathers had done, with the sins which they committed. For they also built for themselves high places and sacred pillars and Asherim on every high hill and beneath every luxuriant tree. There were also male cult prostitutes in the land. They did according to all the abominations of the nations which the Lord dispossessed before the sons of Israel. 
1 KINGS 14:21-24 NASB
As you can read, Rehoboam was as abominable as his brother Jeroboam in the North.  We can see parallels in this episode with other schisms and splits in the Church especially the Protestant Revolt. Our fidelity does not depend upon the quality of the leaders but a belief in God's promises. Now, God continued to deal with the breakaway Israelites, but they would eventually fall away completely. God never forgot His promises to them which is why Jesus and His disciples reached out to those Samaritans. You may reject God, but God does not reject you.

When it comes to leaders, you can revolt, or you can embrace or endure. The simple fact is that God allows both good leaders and bad leaders, but we owe the same respect and obedience to both not for the sake of the leader but for the sake of God. This is an important point to consider in the aftermath of the sex abuse scandals in the Roman Catholic Church and this disastrous pontificate that is causing a new schism.


I embraced Benedict. I endure Francis. The fact is that there have been worse popes than Francis such that you might think Martin Luther had the right idea. But Luther did not have the right idea. He was wrong, and he led many astray with his heresies. As bad as a pope can be, the promise rests with the Chair of Peter. As such, regardless of who occupies that chair, you are required to be in submission to that authority because that authority comes from God Himself.

One does not need instruction on how to embrace a pontiff. Enduring a pontiff is another matter. St. Catherine of Siena lays it out:
Even if [the Pope an incarnate devil], we ought not to raise up our heads against him, but calmly lie down to rest on his bosom... He who rebels against our Father is condemned to death, for that which we do to him we do to Christ: we honor Christ if we honor the Pope; we dishonor Christ if we dishonor the Pope.
St. Catherine nails it. Unfortunately, many Catholics are not getting it. You have the modernist heretics more than willing to embrace this pope because he is their guy. With Francis, the wind is at their backs as they pursue their modernist agenda. Do they do right? Of course not. They embrace the pope while rejecting Christ. The simple fact is that you never embrace a bad leader, and this includes the pope. You endure them while remaining steadfast to principle and the commands of Christ.

The flip side of the modernists are the Traddies who refer to the Holy Father as "Bergoglio." This is a deep insult and an affront to Our Lord Himself. You don't call the Queen "Lizzie." You don't call the President "Barry." Yet, these people insist on demeaning the Vicar of Christ. This is sin.

Enduring a pope means that you respect his office and respect him as a person. Where he does right, you support. Where he errs, you resist. But you don't do things like suggest he isn't the pope or that he turn in his resignation. Instead, you abandon yourself to God's divine providence and trust that He knows His business.

Faithful and true Catholics are left with a problem though. Should you ever speak out to correct an erring pontiff? St. Paul gives us the answer:
But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision. The rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, “If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews? 
GALATIANS 2:11-14 NASB
In this passage, St. Paul calls out St. Peter. Now, St. Peter taught correctly, but he did not always live correctly. Who among us hasn't done the same thing? So, St. Paul lets the man know his error. From all I know, St. Peter took the rebuke. This is why Paul shares the episode not because he is bragging but to dispel controversy and scandal. Obviously, there had been confusion over the issue especially considering St. Peter's behavior. But by relating the episode, St. Paul shows that Peter was the authority since only Peter could definitively clear up the matter. Basically, Paul reminded Peter of what Peter had already been teaching and doing.


The Roman Catholic Church faces a similar controversy with the teaching on communion for divorce and remarried. Some Pauls got together and confronted Peter with Remaining in the Truth of Christ. By doing this, these brave prelates resisted an erring pontiff and corrected him. He doesn't seem to have listened, but that is beside the point. Ever since Martin Luther, many in the Church have been leery of such confrontations, but they shouldn't be. Speak the truth and let it go at that. What a pope does after that is on him.

Speaking the truth is one thing. Acting on it is another. This is the error of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, founder of the SSPX. Lefebvre was orthodox but disobedient which earned him automatic excommunication. Lefebvre refused to be subject to the pope when ordered to disband the SSPX and also when he consecrated bishops in defiance of Pope St. John Paul II. This excommunication on Lefebvre has never been lifted. Meanwhile, the FSSP and its members are obedient and show what proper resistance should be.

I doubt I will run into the Holy Father in the near future to tell him my thoughts on Amoris Laetitia, but I do deal with prelates and priests on the diocesan and parish level respectively. When they err, I let them know, but that's it. So far, I have been spared having to sit through an interpretive dance at Mass or deal with rainbow flags in the sanctuary. As a layperson, I can only express the truth to those who clearly don't know it or disregard it. Beyond that, there is nothing I can do except pray for these people.

Someone once asked me what I would do if I caught a priest in the act of molesting a child. My answer was simple. I would call an ambulance to come treat whatever remained of that pervert after I had beaten him into the floor. But I would still remain a Catholic and go to Mass and confession. I wouldn't even talk about it except to the police.

Is it wrong to beat a pervert in the act? I would say that it would be wrong not to beat that pervert. Likewise, a priest is definitely not acting In persona Christi at that moment. This is one of the reasons we have a sex abuse crisis in the Church. Good people did nothing. Somehow, cradle Catholics have gotten the idea that these men are allowed to do whatever they like, and they have to put up with it. This isn't true.

What many laypeople do instead is engage in gossip, calumny, and detraction. When they have a problem with a priest, they don't say anything to him, but they do say it to everyone else that will listen. This is wrong. Or, they will go to that priest's bishop and nag the prelate until they get the priest reassigned. The priest never gets to mend his ways or defend himself. Often, the priest is in the right, and the parishioner is just being a crackpot.

Finally, there is the tyrant. Today, prelates hold virtually no temporal power. This was not always the case, and that power could and was abused. The most famous case is the trial of St. Joan of Arc who literally was killed by the Church that canonized her. Like Christ, she was obedient unto death. In more modern times, we have St. Padre Pio who was not condemned to death but suffered severe restrictions upon his ministry. He could have easily gone Martin Luther, but he did not. In both cases, they show what saints do. They are always obedient to Christ. You cannot be obedient to Christ and not obedient to His Church.

5.28.2016

Random Thoughts on Various Subjects 13


I told the doctor I broke my leg in two places. He told me to stop going to those places.
HENNY YOUNGMAN

1. BRUTALISM

Brutalism is the architecture of the featureless concrete slab. When it does have features, they are always grotesque. Here is a picture of the old Boston City Hall:


This building is a classic. The only thing wrong with this beautiful old building is that it is too small to serve the needs of a metropolis like Boston. So, the City of Boston built this monstrosity to fit its current needs:


What an eyesore! The new Boston City Hall is the epitome of Brutalism. Brutalist architecture was mainstay for government and university buildings in the 1970's. They were cheap, utilitarian, and honest. They are also universally loathed except by a few trendy art nerds. The buildings are ugly, and no one cares about them. The original link carries you to a story about St. Peter's Seminary that was built in the brutalist style and abandoned after 20 years. No one cries when one of these beasts is abandoned and torn down. Yet, a classic like the Old City Hall of Boston would provoke a riot if people tried to tear it down.

People love beautiful buildings. They are worth the time, money, and effort that it takes to design and build them. The problem is that designers have lost their sense of beauty.

2. ISIS

I am heartened to hear that ISIS is on the ropes and has begun to eat itself as they slaughter defectors and try desperately to get or create funding for itself including harvesting organs from their own fighters to sell on the black market. I say this many times, and I say it again. Evil will eat itself. It always does.

3. DRAFTING WOMEN

It says something when this country would stoop so low as to force women to sign up for Selective Service making them available for possibly being drafted into military service. It says even more when you find supporters of this policy in the Pentagon and among otherwise conservative people who still pretend that they are men. For me, I find this idea abhorrent, and any man who supports it is a disgrace to his manhood.

There are two types of men who support this move. The first is the effeminate progressive girly man who is for anything pro-feminist and pro-sodomite or whatever other perversion of society and nature that comes out of the Democrat Party and the pages of Mother Jones. The second are the porn addicted masturbating barbarians who see women as nothing but sex objects and/or domestic servants who have no greater purpose in life than to feed the appetites, needs, and desires of men. It makes sense that these loathsome insults to manliness would see fit to turn women into cannon fodder. One of these fools even told me that he saw drafting women as "payback" for feminism.

The United States of America is bereft of true men.

4. ALONE IN A VAST UNIVERSE

Astronomers tell us that the universe is massive. It defies our comprehension. There are billions and billions of stars out there. Carl Sagan got it right. Yet, in this vastness, we seem to be alone. I could be wrong, but it is my belief that this planet is the only one with life on it. The human race is the only intelligent species in the universe. Now, I can't know this with certainty. It is just what I feel in my gut. I don't believe in aliens. Earth is the only Eden in this vast universe. And we have ruined it.

5. Q & A

Q: Why not vote third party?

A: I think about this a great deal as I am no fan of Donald Trump. But it takes me back to my days voting for Libertarian Party candidates. The third party option is a vote to "lessen evil" as opposed to voting for the lesser evil. But this all breaks apart when I ask why we shouldn't vote for a write in candidate and make that write in candidate yourself. You can't ever go wrong with that option because by voting for yourself you are never voting against your principles. You are the perfect candidate for you.

If this seems like nonsense when taken to its logical end, then congratulations! You have reached a point of enlightenment. Now, if everyone voted for themselves, no one would ever get elected. So, one person decides to vote for someone else giving that person a plurality of the vote. Others see the wisdom in this and follow suit. Before you know it, you end up with a two party system like the one we see today. If you vote for anyone other than yourself, you made a compromise somewhere. I will now help you to learn to live with that compromise.

Compromise is a necessity. You must give up something in order to gain something else. For instance, I give up two hours to watch a movie. That time is lost but well spent if the movie is good. If it isn't so good, then I have lost two hours of my life that I can't get back. The goal is to be better off at the end of those two hours than I was at the beginning.

With political candidates, you make a similar trade. You are going to give your vote, public endorsement, money, volunteer time, etc. to a candidate that you hope will make the country, state, or locality better off by the end of their term than at the beginning. This may not pan out for you, but that is the objective. Obviously, things would be better for you if you won the election, but you can't win which is why you never actually vote for yourself. That would be a waste. A candidate with no reasonable chance of winning becomes a waste of your vote. This is why third party people never get above double digits unless they are billionaires with money and personality like Ross Perot. Basically, you need to be either a Democrat or a Republican if you want a chance at winning. Trump got the message and did the hard job of getting through months of primaries and debates.

When you have two candidates, the choice is very simple. Vote for the one that you think will make the country better than what it is now. At the very least, it shouldn't be worse. None will be perfect except for yourself. And what about when you think the country will be worse regardless of who wins? Once again, you have to pick the one who would do lesser damage than the other. Yes, those choices are made with fingers pinching the nose, but we do this all the time when buying products, picking jobs, choosing schools, etc. This world is not heaven.

I respect people who choose not to vote. Sometimes, voting for such despicable choices is not worth the taint that comes with voting for them. If there was an election of Hitler vs. Stalin, you would have to go with Hitler because he had a lower body count. But I find it understandable when people choose to just not vote. Not voting is essentially voting for yourself. I respect that. By not voting, you achieve the same end as voting third party. You get to keep your integrity and make zero difference in the world.

6. ODDS AND ENDS

--If you are more Catholic than the pope, it would help your case to not be seen strolling about with a concubine half your age.

--I would love to see a Trump/Sanders debate. They should get paid and donate the proceeds to a charity helping working people and/or vets.

--It should be a felony for desecrating a war memorial with graffiti.

--Ginsburg calls for 9, but I think she fears 7. She could drop at any moment.

--The military's new railgun is a gamechanger. In 30 years, they will have a version that is full auto and will rain devastation. Good-bye, heirs to ISIS.

--New Motorola RAZR rumors and excitement should be a clue to Lenovo to make good on the now debunked rumors. People want flip phones. They just want them to do smartphone things.

7. QUOTABLE QUOTES

Seek only Him. Do not try to use Him as a means to seek any other end. He is not your Santa, he is your Savior.--Peter Kreeft

To remain indifferent to good fortune or to adversity by accepting it all from the hand of God without questioning, not to ask for things to be done as we would like them but as God wishes, to make the intention of all our prayers that God's will should be perfectly accomplished in ourselves and in all creatures is to find the secret of happiness and content.--Fr. Jean Baptiste Saint-Jure

Nothing else can ever cure our sick world except saints, and saints are never made except by prayer.--Peter Kreeft

You cannot put straight in others what is warped in yourself.--St. Athanasius

Never affirm anything unless you are sure it is true.--St. Teresa of Avila

All the good works in the world are not equal to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass because they are the works of men; but the Mass is the work of God. Martyrdom is nothing in comparison for it is but the sacrifice of man to God; but the Mass is the sacrifice of God for man.--St. John Vianney

When you look at the Crucifix, you understand how much Jesus loved you then. When you look at the Sacred Host you understand how much Jesus loves you now.--Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta

8. LINKS OF INTEREST

5.23.2016

Good Times Bad Times


Good times, bad times
You know I had my share
When my woman left home
With a brown eyed man
Well, I still don't seem to care
LED ZEPPELIN, Good Times Bad Times

I saw a homeless man eating food out of a garbage can the other day. He drank leftover soda from discarded cups and ate whatever he could find in crumpled up McDonald's bags. He was an old man wearing a dirty yellow jacket. I imagine he was a drunk as well. I can go easy on people like that because life is so hard and so unfair that cheap alcohol is the only thing these people have left in life. My wife just played me some YouTube clips of children and family living in poverty around the country. The most heartbreaking were of families living out of their cars in Central Florida. The men had jobs, but the housing market collapse and the crappy economy has left them in dire straits.

I have been homeless twice in my life. The first time was in Central Florida after my friend and housemate committed suicide. I found his body, and the trauma of the event made it impossible to stay in that house anymore. My other housemate had friends to stay with. I was not as fortunate, so I opted to sleep on the floor of an empty apartment being painted. This was a two week ordeal, but I endured it by reading The Count of Monte Cristo. In hindsight, I should have been praying to God, but I stopped talking to God when I found that body bled out and cold from a razor cut. My faith had died with him.

I don't know why God allowed that in my life except that it is probably easier to convert an atheist to Catholicism than a Calvinist. One thing I remained convinced about to this day is that Calvinism drove my friend to his desperate act. Since this was all the religion I knew and believed in, I concluded that all religion was a delusion. This was not an immediate conclusion but one I would drift to over a few years of not praying. I did not pray for 15 years solid.

The second time I was homeless was as a consequence of my family. No two people in my life have harmed me more than my own mother and father. They are the sort of people who repay charity with ingratitude. If you do them a good turn, they will do you a bad turn. My brother has the same trait. As for me, I am a softhearted fool. The bad times have toughened me up a bit and made me wiser, but I always feel a pain in my heart for people who are having a tough time. I wish I was a rich philanthropist, but my charity is more on par with the widow's mite and giving a cup of water to someone.

I am grateful to my aunt for helping me out of my rough patch that my family put me in. Unfortunately, she does not understand why I can never trust any of them ever again. When people do me wrong, I pray for them and endure what happened. But I cannot read anywhere in the Bible where I am required to trust them again. This is why I can give food to a homeless person, but I never give them cash. People can be like wild beasts that will eat everything you give them and then devour you when it is all done.

Some people are beyond hope and help. This is their doing. Their hearts are so hardened and blackened that they can never move towards the light. I was on my way to that state, but I could never get there. I remember as an atheist being invited to a Christian concert by an evangelical Protestant friend, and I went with the purpose of mocking it and taking a crap on it. This one lady got up to sing a solo, and I could see her love for God on her face. At that moment, I felt that urge inside myself to just crap all over this foolishness, but I couldn't do it. Some part of me convicted myself and told me that I would be evil and worthy of some kind of damnation if I did that. I believed the woman was deluded by her religious fantasies, and I felt sorry for her. But I felt compassion for her. I remembered when I was similarly "deluded" and how much happiness that delusion brought me. I decided then and there as an atheist that I would never ever try and take away someone's faith from them. In a world of emptiness, what did it matter what anyone believed?

That moment did something for me, and I see it clearly now. That was God giving me a bit of grace. I had made the right response when I could have chosen the dark path. I would meet another "deluded" woman shortly thereafter, and I would end up marrying her. But I remembered my decision, and I was a tolerant atheist. This gave me the window that God could shine a light through.

When I was homeless the second time, I did not pray. I wanted to die. I don't know which pain was worse--the first time when my roommate killed himself or the second time when I wished that I was dead with him. I would have to say it was the second time. The first time was traumatic and sudden like breaking a bone. The second time was more like having cancer that got worse instead of better. I knew I would live through the first time. I didn't care if I lived through the second time.

Why live? This was a question that came to me again and again as an atheist. I recently read that they euthanized some poor young girl over in Europe somewhere (I forget) because she was suffering from mental health issues on par with PTSD. This puts the pro-lifers in fits, but I understand why they did it. Without God, life is reduced to pleasure. If there is no pleasure, the quality of life is non-existent, so it is not worth living. I've lived long enough to realize that even with pleasure life is not worth living. God is the only thing that makes life worth living. Without God, it all becomes a farce.

This farce is what guys like Nietzsche, Sartre, and Camus dealt with. Their thinking was nothing new as you can see it in the Book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible. That book is one of the most depressing you can ever read because it is written by someone who had it all and realized it was vanity. When you are in poverty and suffering, you can dream of riches and better times. But when you are rich and in better times and you find yourself empty, what else is there to dream about?

We were watching a documentary about Andy Warhol the other night, and Andy dreamed of making a splash in the real art world. He was already making a decent living in the commercial art world, but he really wanted to be a serious artist. The problem was that the serious art world snubbed him because he was a commercial artist. It bothered him until Andy came to his So What philosophy:
Sometimes people let the same problem make them miserable for years when they could just say, So what. That's one of my favorite things to say. So what.
Basically, Andy realized that he was making himself miserable when he could just stop doing it by not caring. Here's another gem from Warhol:
If something's going to happen for you, it will, you can't make it happen. And it never does happen until you're past the point where you care whether it happens or not. I guess it's for your own good that it always happens that way, because after you stop wanting things is where having them won't make you go crazy.
Apathy is a fascinating thing. We think we know apathy, but most people are just kidding themselves about that. Then, you see the real thing. Apathy is a single mom in a Toyota van passing you on the way to the work like you are standing still. I know this person, and she is someone who truly does not give a damn about anything. I have a certain admiration for her. I wish I could not care in the same way. Her apathy comes not so much from not being responsible so much as fatigue from responsibility. It's the same way that exhaustion lessens stress.

I feel depressed as I write this because I have to work tomorrow, and I hate my job. I could quit the job, but I know the next job will be just like this one. This is because this job is just like the last one. A job is where you endure pain, exhaustion, madness, and misery for money. I would be happy with just working, but management always makes it worse. Management is why I hate my job. They want production but find ways to make the job longer and harder. They don't want to pay you overtime, but they always want you to come in on your day off. Ultimately, they want you to work for free, and I think even that would satisfy them for about a week until they could scheme some way to make you pay for the privilege of suffering there.

I wake up every morning that I have to go to work with the urge to vomit. It leaves me on the weekends but is my constant source of misery until I clock out on Friday evening. The nights before a workday are black and depressing. The world is misery and evil.

I try to compare my black thoughts with those when I was homeless, and I have to admit something. It felt better being homeless. That is sad to admit that, but it is true. It's like when I was homeless the first time and in distress. I could always go back home to mom and dad, but I preferred being in that state than being around my old man. I would console myself in those dark times with the pleasant thought that I didn't have to listen to my old man ever again. I would never go back home because I felt sorry for myself. I did it only when I felt sorry for him. That would make me homeless a second time. Lesson learned.

There is a sneaking suspicion among many that the homeless are taking a break from life. They have no responsibilities. They spend their days drunk. They don't care about anything. The words spoken against them sound envious. This should tell you something. When life is so bad that you envy the homeless, that says it all right there. My friend in the dirty yellow jacket eating garbage probably looks at people like me slaving away on the job to make rich people richer and pities them. Is the slave who is beaten but fed superior to the free man who starves?

I can't make any sense out of it except to say that I do what I do because I have to do it. I don't enjoy it. My days are suffering which I offer up to the Lord in reparation for my sins. It is my penance for all my evil deeds. My hope is God. As for everything else, so what?

5.21.2016

Options


. . .we have to mount some kind of strategic withdrawal. . .
ROD DREHER

Sometimes, it helps to quote someone out of context to truly understand them. Naturally, they will respond that they were quoted out of context because all those words somehow put the idea in its proper place. But simple ideas don't really need explanation. The explanation comes when that simple idea is the wrong idea. The additional words are there to try and magically turn that wrong into a right. Rod Dreher has the wrong idea.

The Benedict Option is the hottest thing in the Catholic and conservative blogosphere. It has gained an attraction and a fascination among people who are tempted to withdraw from society and from civic engagement. I can understand that temptation because it is difficult, frustrating, and exhausting fighting it out day after day in the public arena for something that mere days ago was common sense but has now fallen out of politically correct fashion. I am in agreement with Dreher that the USA is a post-Christian society. I do not doubt this in the least. But this realization begs the question. What now? Dreher's answer is the Benedict Option, a strategic withdrawal by Christians to regroup and refocus. I quote Dreher in context now:
My thesis is this: These are not normal times for Christians in America. Our country has become post-Christian, meaning not that people don’t go to church, but that the ideals and principles of normative Christianity have ceased to guide society, and that the culture’s move away from Christianity is accelerating, even moving swiftly from post-Christianity to anti-Christianity. This is not only because of the faith’s enemies, political and otherwise, but also — even mostly — because of a host of uncritical assumptions many Christians make about what it means to be faithful. The triumphal march of gay rights may be a catalyst at the present moment, but it is by no means the biggest story here. In fact, if there were no gay marriage at all, Christianity would still be in crisis, still be at a major turning point, because of deep currents of modern thought pushing the historic faith to irrelevance.
We are entering a period in which the state and private entities (e.g., businesses, universities, media) are going to be further stigmatizing and undermining the institutions and ideas of orthodox Christianity. And the response to this by Christians and their leaders has been by and large grossly inadequate. It is no longer sufficient, I say, to fight as we always fought. Yes, we must fight for our right to practice our religion, but that will be meaningless if our children leave the faith because it has come to mean nothing to them. And leave the faith they will.
My argument is that we need to realize the radical nature of the present moment, which requires a radical response — a kind of deliberate, strategic retreat so that we can tend our own gardens, so to speak, and cultivate the deep roots that our kids and their kids, and their kids’ kids will need to hold on to the faith through the dark times ahead. We are not giving this to them now. We are not giving it to ourselves. We are like the rabbit in Philip Larkin’s poem Myxomatosis, who believes everything might come right again if we just sit still and wait.
We need to construct alternative forms of community in which the life of faith and virtue, as we see it, can be lived out in a healthy, sustainable manner, amid a hostile culture. We need to build some kind of walls to make a quiet space, so to speak, so that we can tell the church’s story, and our kids can hear it told. We need to have a barrier between ourselves and the village, so that the barbarism of the village doesn’t overwhelm us, and — this is crucial — so that we can be a source of light, of love, and of plain sanity to the people who are chewed up by the barbarism, and are seeking shelter and community.
In short, we have to mount some kind of strategic withdrawal so we can remember, so we can pray, so we can teach, so we can pass on what we’ve been given in a time of chaos and destruction of memory — and so we can be what the church is meant to be for the life of the world.  
Arguing About the Benedict Option
Now, Dreher spends a great deal arguing about this idea. This is because he is writing a book about the idea, and he insists on talking about a book he hasn't finished writing or gotten published. Naturally, critics of the idea are accused of misrepresentation or straw man arguments. But you can't complain about misrepresentation until you at least have a presentation. What Dreher possesses with this idea is a speculation. He is thinking out loud, so I must respond to those things he has actually written and uttered.

My understanding of the Benedict Option is that Christians should withdraw from secular society and become more of what we already are. Dreher derives this idea from Alasdair MacIntyre's book, After Virtue, which coined the term "Benedict Option" but never elucidated it. If MacIntyre had done this, Dreher wouldn't be writing a book about it. He is attempting to fill in the blank that MacIntyre left. I have not read the book and probably won't. But I have read the Bible, and this verse springs readily to mind:
You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.
You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.  
MATTHEW 5:13-16 NASB
Christians are to be the salt of the earth. Salt in antiquity was a preservative. It was what kept food from rotting in the pre-refrigeration era. It also flavored food, but the salt in Jesus's day was not the pure table salt that we know but a mix of salt and other minerals. Sometimes, that "salt" would become damp, and the actual salt would leech out leaving the minerals behind. It looked like salt, but it was flavorless and useless. You couldn't and wouldn't put the "saltiness" back in this mixture, so it got tossed out. It was worthless. The lesson in this? Be worth your salt.

All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle.--St. Francis of Assisi

The light of the world part is also important because Jesus gives to His church a mission to be distinct from the world but also visible to the world. This light would be an attraction to those in the darkness and show them the way out of that darkness into the light of God's love. Subsequent history shows that Christianity has been the light in the darkness of this world and established Western Civilization, the greatest in human history. That civilization is now under attack as the darkness tries to swallow the light as if such a thing could ever be possible.

It is helpful to point out that the Church has been here before and in various countries and societies. This is nothing new. Even Jesus said that He was sending out lambs to wolves. Our present troubles aren't that big of a deal in light of things like the French Revolution, Lepanto, the Crusades, the Spanish Revolution, the Cristero War in Mexico, or Soviet Communism. Until the guillotine, the scaffold, and the firing squads come out, we are riding pretty easy especially in light of what ISIS and China are doing to Christians.

My belief is that Dreher has the salt portion of our Bible quote in mind but has neglected the light portion. His model for strategic withdrawal is Benedictine Monasticism which carried Christian culture like Noah's Ark through the dark ages of barbarism to emerge once more when the floodwaters of paganism receded. Without a doubt, Christendom owes a debt to Benedict and other religious who preserved the faith to flower again in a later time. But are we really in such a barbaric time today? We haven't even reached the level of the Recusant period in the UK when Catholicism was outlawed.

How did we get here? That is the important question. It is important to point out that the world has always been messed up. This is the default setting for life under the sun. Left to itself, human society automatically descends into chaos and barbarism. The world hates God in general and Jesus Christ in particular. The Roman Empire was the most hostile environment imaginable to establish the Christian religion, yet this is where Our Lord chose to put His feet on the ground and establish His kingdom. And He conquered. It is hard to believe it, but this is what happened.

No Benedict Option for Edmund Campion.

The world has not changed. It is the same as it has always been. What has changed is the Church especially the Roman Catholic Church. The simple fact is that Christianity as a whole and Catholicism especially has lost its saltiness. Christians no longer act as preservatives, so the rot has overtaken the bloated corpse of this evil world. A better book to read on this issue is not anything from the keyboard of Rod Dreher but Ross Douthat's superb Bad Religion that argues that the Christians in the USA have become a community of heretics. If anything, a hostile world is necessary to purify the Church through persecution and not vice versa. Any reading of the Old Testament or church history shows that time and time again, God uses the scourge of a hostile world to purify His kingdom on earth. Today, the Roman Catholic Church with its heresies, nominalism, sex abuse scandals, and the like is in deep need of purification.

At this point, it is important to note that Rod Dreher is a schismatic. He converted to Eastern Orthodoxy from Roman Catholicism. I do not present this as an ad hominem attack but to point out what I consider to be the real genesis of this Benedict Option. Dreher converted to Catholicism from Methodism, and he was an enthusiastic Catholic. I think this enthusiasm persists today because of Dreher's constant fascination with All Things Catholic. But Dreher hit a crisis when the sex abuse scandal broke in the Catholic Church. I can understand his heartbreak over this crisis. Imagine converting to the Church in the light of this scandal. That was my story. For Dreher, he did not want to cease being a Christian, but he didn't want to stay in the Catholic Church and endure this trial. This is when he decided upon the Benedict Option. Dreher didn't call it that and would consider his decision to leave Catholicism and my tethering it to the Benedict Option to be a non sequitur. But the two are the same when I give the Benedict Option its actual name which is "Quit and Split."

People love Quit and Split. Marriage on the rocks? Quit and split. Job got you down? Quit and split. Don't like the boring music or the annoying pastor at your traditional church or parish? Quit and split. On and on, When things get rough, you quit and split. The Quit and Split Option is very appealing because it is the easy path out of a rough patch. This is the lure of the Benedict Option because it is the backdoor out of a bar fight you know is going to get ugly.

Dreher employed the Quit and Split Option for his problem, so it stands to reason that he would find it an answer to be applied more widely to a Christian community that suddenly finds itself in an increasingly post-Christian world. This option comes not from deep seated Christian conviction but a technological and media saturated world that tells you to change the channel or Google something else if you don't like what you see. The problem is that some things just aren't optional. One of those things is ceasing to be Catholic. Once you recognize the Catholic Church as possessing the One True Faith, you are obligated to get in it and stay in it forever. This includes when it is mired in apostasy, scandal, and the like. There are no Orthodox or Lutheran Options on this. Remain Catholic or be damned. Here is St. Augustine on the matter:
No man can find salvation except in the Catholic Church. Outside the Catholic Church one can have everything except salvation. One can have honor, one can have the sacraments, one can sing alleluia, one can answer amen, one can have faith in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, and preach it too, but never can one find salvation except in the Catholic Church.
I cannot read these words and not see Rod Dreher in my mind. Dreher left Catholicism for Eastern Orthodoxy. By doing this, he was able to enjoy almost all of the benefits of Catholicism without any of the negatives. He didn't have to make apologies for perverted priests or sit through some less than reverential Masses. In making this move, Dreher showed that he was still Protestant at heart. When I became Catholic, I knew exactly what I was getting into. I was getting into something I would never have the option to leave. I am now and will always remain Catholic or suffer the consequences of eternal damnation.

Quit and Split!

I am not the judge of the state of Rod Dreher's soul. That is a matter between him and the Almighty. But the Quit and Split Option is one that I can and must address. It is doubtful that forming an intentional Christian community will have the same consequences as schism from the One True Faith and may actually be a help to those who enter these communities. Such a move may save their souls, and I can say they already have. This is because this option has always been around since the beginning of the Church and even before if you include John the Baptist and the Essenes. We know this as religious life and demands things like celibacy, poverty, and obedience. We don't have to contemplate the Benedict Option because it is already being done by Benedictines, Carmelites, Trappists, and the like.

The novelty of Dreher's Benedict Option is as a religious life option for those in the lay vocation. The problem with this is that laypersons are laypersons. They are not religious. The Catholic Church recognizes three vocations--lay, priestly, and religious. A person can be both a priest and a religious. But you can't also be a layperson. No such creature exists. Dreher offers us a hybrid of fish and mammal. He suggests being both in the world and also not in the world. This doesn't work.

Now, there are movements that look like what Dreher is talking about. This would be Catholic private schools and colleges, Catholic homeschoolers, and Catholic homesteaders. These efforts are not so much withdrawals as competitive alternatives to the debased culture. Mom and dad might send their sons and daughters to the Catholic parochial school, but they still make their livings in the regular world. None of these things are new but have been regular parts of Catholic family life for quite some time. These are not strategic withdrawals so much as strategic alternatives. What makes them so difficult is when those same Christian families have to pay taxes to support a corrupt system they no longer use.

So, what exactly is Dreher asking people to do? Are Christians supposed to become survival preppers and escape to the hills and await the Pagan Zombie Apocalypse? Or, do they move to a state and take over like libertarians with the Free State Project in New Hampshire or Mormons in Utah? Or do we become like the Amish? Perhaps he will clear this up in his forthcoming book. I doubt it.

The simple fact is that laypersons are in the world. This is not going to change unless they elect for religious life and maybe a cloistered convent. It also assumes that the world will let you be should you elect for a strategic withdrawal. Finally, what would this withdrawal actually accomplish?

From what I can gather, the Benedict Option is simply deciding not to vote or engage in political and cultural life. You are still going to live in the same place and do the same things. The difference is that you are going to shut your mouth and become invisible. Basically, you are going to take that light you have that makes you different from the world and put it under a basket. Unfortunately, this is not an option as our Lord expects us to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. You are not allowed to Quit and Split. You have to take up your cross on this and carry it.

Be men and women of the world, but don't be worldly men and women.--Saint Josemaria Escriva

The real option for Christians and for Catholics is what Austin Ruse calls the Escriva Option after Saint Josemaria Escriva. Basically, this option is about being salty instead of invisible. It attacks what is the real problem which is the fact that Catholics aren't so Catholic. Escriva believed in the Universal Call to Holiness which has always been there but was diminished over the ages by clericalism. Laypersons are supposed to be saints, and the movement of Opus Dei which Escriva founded has this mission as its purpose. Opus Dei is not a political organization nor is it a religious order like the Dominicans or the Benedictines. It simply seeks to turn ordinary believers into extraordinary saints through simple devotion to our Lord, our Lady, the Holy Father, and the norms as prescribed by Escriva. There are varying levels of commitment to the Work as befitting a person's availability from celibate numeraries to supernumeraries with families to cooperators who simply pray and give financial support to the Work. One does not have to be a member of Opus Dei to enjoy its benefits and many people already enjoy those benefits without knowing the source. I think the Escriva Option is the way out for the problems in the Catholic Church. We need saints especially lay saints.

As for the political side of things, Father James Schall offers the Aristotelian Option which is a rejection of the Benedict Option which he equates to the "Epicurean Option." Here is how Schall puts it:
In the light of these considerations, is there yet another option that we might call “the Aristotelian Option”? Aristotle lived in a sophisticated but turbulent age. He observed wars, corrupt and demagogic politicians. He knew the passions of the great majority in any society. He knew how tyrants rose out of the unlimited freedom of democratic citizens who had no principle of order in their own souls.
Yet he taught that the good man did have responsibilities in society.  He defined man as a “political animal”.  Man found his greatest dignity and fulfillment when he participated courageously in affairs of state. For Aristotle that meant serving in the government of Athens or fighting in its army. He did not think that a rational being ought to retreat from engagement in public life. But he was realistic enough to acknowledge that good regimes do fail and there is an order to their failure. He also could envision, with a change in the souls of the citizens, a return to good order. But immediately, Aristotle is most helpful for us today in his description of what happens in democracies in which the souls of the citizens are not ruled by anything but their own desires. He saw how quickly tyrants would arise within such regimes and impose their own arbitrary rule. 
Bede the Venerable, the Anglo-Saxon monk who wrote An Ecclesiastical History of the English People about the year 730AD, had harsh words for British Christians who failed in their duty to convert the Saxons, Angles and Jute invaders from the Continent: “Among other most wicked actions … which their own historian, Gildas, mournfully takes notice of, they added this - that they never preached the faith to the Saxons, or English, who dwelt amongst them.” But the context of conversion today is not that of pagan tribes who were open to Christianity. In 12 centuries, very, very few Muslims have been converted, while whole nations once Christian are now Muslim. The imposition of understandings of human life directly contrary to the natural law is now almost the norm of public life in the West. Christians are being driven out of public life if they do not change their views and accept the politics of the state.
Basically, Schall says what Plato said.  "One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors." Neither the Christian faith nor worldly wisdom tell us to withdraw from civic engagement. Such a withdrawal is an abdication of duty and common sense. The reason such madness is happening now is precisely because that withdrawal has already taken place. Dreher would obviously argue that he is not throwing in the towel on this fight, yet if no towel hits the canvas, we can safely conclude the fight is ended when the fighter has taken off the gloves and left the ring.

Quit and Split. At the end of it all, this is what Dreher is telling us to do. As such, Dreher is a sort of heretic in ignorant collusion with the world. We can salve our consciences with the assurance that we will come back to the fight again when things are more favorable, but this overlooks one glaring fact. It has never been favorable for the Church in the world. The storm is always raging, and the winds and the rain never stop even when you Quit and Split. They only stop when you surrender and become like the world that hates you because it hated Him first.


5.15.2016

The Twilight Zone of Sheer Exhaustion


And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being covered with the waves; but Jesus Himself was asleep.
MATTHEW 8:24 NASB

Jesus was a man who burned the candle at both ends. This is an insight I come across again and again in my reading of the Gospels. The popular notion of Jesus is that He engaged in some sort of relaxing pastoral ministry walking gently through the countryside and preaching sermons from hilltops. The reality is that He was a man who was mobbed by a crowd of desperate people longing for physical healing and words of hope in a world dominated by a brutal empire that left corpses to rot on crucifixes to instill fear in the populace. And Jesus did all that He could to deliver. He spent Himself daily ministering to these people. He poured Himself out. He was so thronged that He had to labor to get away from people, so that He could pray. When we get to the story of the storm and the boat, we see Jesus dead from exhaustion lying asleep in a storm that terrified His disciples. How could He sleep at a time like that? The answer is simple. He was exhausted.

I contemplate exhaustion often. This is because I am exhausted often. Some people may find exhaustion to be a negative, but I do not. Exhaustion is your friend. It has a double blessing. The first is that it allows you to sleep well when you actually find time to sleep. It doesn't matter where you are even if it is the stern of a boat in a stormy sea. A few idle moments is all that it takes for lights outs.

The second blessing of exhaustion is that it lets you know that you are living life fully. When I am lazy, I have regret, but I have no regrets when I am living in the twilight zone of sheer exhaustion. Exhaustion lets you know that you are doing all that you can humanly do. In the race of life, you want to cross the finish line on fumes. Leave nothing in the tank.


The disciples of Jesus learned this and lived this lesson of exhaustion. Jesus commissioned them with the same healing gifts and message that He had and sent them out to do what He did. I suspect that these disciples were thronged by the same crowds that followed Jesus. By the time you come to the episode of Gethsemane, you get this:
And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.”  And He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour? Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
He went away again a second time and prayed, saying, “My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done.” Again He came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. And He left them again, and went away and prayed a third time, saying the same thing once more. Then He came to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour is at hand and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up, let us be going; behold, the one who betrays Me is at hand!” 
MATTHEW 26:39-46 NASB
It is easy to jump all over the disciples for their failure to watch and pray at this crucial hour, but I tend to cut them a lot of slack. Most readers see them as lazy, but I see them as exhausted. If you have ever fell asleep while praying the rosary, then you know what these disciples were dealing with. But considering the hindsight of these disciples and the Gospel writers, they obviously lamented this failure to watch with our Lord. With the death and resurrection of our Lord and Pentecost behind them, these disciples would go on to be veritable workaholics for the Lord. I love these words from St. Paul in 2 Corinthians 11:27,  "I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure." What did St. Paul do during those sleepless nights? He prayed, of course.


I love the example of St. Paul's life as a model of living. He was an apostle working fervently to spread the faith among the Gentiles. He had a life of the mind as evidenced by his erudition and his many letters. But he was also blue collar making tents to support himself and not be a burden upon his faithful flock. Now, anyone can work, but who works so he can do other work? This is what St. Paul did. He poured himself out as a living sacrifice. His was a life definitely lived in the twilight zone of sheer exhaustion.

People fear exhaustion. This is why they avoid work except that which is necessary. But I like to remind myself and others that work is not the curse. Frustration is the curse. It is when you till the soil and it yields weeds instead of crops that you want to give it up. But one of the blessings of the advent of the Messiah is the removal of that curse of frustration found in Genesis 3:18. Yes, the ground still yields thorns and thistles. Your car may not start in the morning. That term paper you spent all night writing might be lost in a computer crash. But when Jesus lets his disciples fish all night to catch nothing then blesses them with an abundant haul of fish in the morning, He removed that curse of frustration. We may not always see the fruits of our labors for the Kingdom of God in this life, but that work will not be frustrated. It will not be for nought.

Frustration is our number one reason for not endeavoring in a project. No one wants to waste their time, money, and energy on things that are not profitable. Yet, when people find something profitable, they will pour themselves into it wholeheartedly working to the point of utter fatigue and exhaustion. Many are the tales of artists and entrepreneurs pouring themselves out for things that are here today and gone tomorrow. If such persons can give so much to the chaff, should we not give as much or more for the sake of the wheat?

The well rested life of leisure is a life without faith. Faith is the difference between a sleepy headed disciple and a workaholic apostle. We would do well to remember the words of our Lord in Luke 10:2, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest." Jesus call us to work. We are to pray for workers but also become workers. This is the work of apostolate. We are to do it, to do it well, to do it vigorously, and to do it to the point of exhaustion. How do I know this? Because Jesus and His apostles did this.

If frustration is one excuse for not working, the other popular excuse is specialization. Specialization is the belief that the work should be done but not by me. Lazy people at my work like to reply, "That is not in my job description." This is a cop out and a way to shirk duty. People are quite adept at finding themselves out of doing work than doing work. In time, they are out of work completely and on the unemployment line. Similarly, Jesus gives more work to those faithful in their duties but takes away work from the faithless. This is the parable of the talents. St. Paul could have rested in his specialization as an apostle, but he still made those tents.

Saints are workaholics for the Lord. Of course, this workaholism is tempered by worship and leisure. St. Paul wrote eloquently,
. . .I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. 
PHILIPPIANS 4:11b-12 NASB 
There is nothing wrong with taking leisure and rest. Obviously, Jesus enjoyed leisure and rest. God commands us to observe the Sabbath and keep it holy. If God can take a break, we can, too. But I think an important point needs to be remembered about rest. It is something earned. Rest is not a lifestyle. It is a respite from labor. And the best rest is the rest that is earned.

Sleep is better at the end of a day of work. Food tastes better after working up an appetite from labor and exercise. And a cold beer is simply awesome after a hot day in the field. I think this is what St. Paul was getting at with his words on contentment in circumstances. In our time of extremes, we opt for one polar extreme or the other. Then, people tell us to find "balance" which is never balance. The true way is syzygy. Embrace both polar opposites. Work hard and sleep well. As hard as St. Paul worked, I see him taking a nap once in awhile or enjoying a nice cup of wine with friends.

These are the lessons I have learned in the twilight zone of sheer exhaustion. The happiest times of my life have been the ones when I have worked the hardest. There is no joy in idleness. And when the Lord returns, may He catch us working instead of loafing. And may He catch us happy in our labor because work is happiness.

We have reminded Christians of the wonderful words of Genesis which tell us that God created man so that he might work, and we have concentrated on the example of Christ, who spent most of His life on earth working as a craftsman in a village. We love human work which He chose as His state in life, which He cultivated and sanctified. We see in work, in men’s noble creative toil, not only one of the highest human values, an indispensable means to social progress and to greater justice in the relations between men, but also a sign of God’s Love for His creatures, and of men’s love for each other and for God: we see in work a means of perfection, a way to sanctity.
Hence, the sole objective of Opus Dei has always been to see to it that there be men and women of all races and social conditions who endeavour to love and to serve God and the rest of mankind in and through their ordinary work, in the midst of the realities and interests of the world.
ST. JOSEMARIA ESCRIVA