T0 Make Unhuman

Human beings have an instinctive, some would say “God given,” revulsion to killing other humans. It appears to be as ancient as we are and the vast majority of human cultures have seen such killing as among the ultimate offenses and apply penalties appropriate to the crime. Such is our instinct.

So those who wish war for whatever reason have a hurdle to overcome. War requires young, healthy, bodies to fuel its ambition and under normal circumstances those people aren’t primally directed to kill and for the comfort of those who send them. Thus, that basic taboo about taking human life must be overcome.

Here lies the work of the propagandist, government, corporate, ethnic, it really makes no difference because to move a normal human being to kill requires a single outcome, the dehumanization of the ones those in power wish to die. If it is deeply and inherently wrong somewhere deep inside the average human, then that is an obstacle that must be overcome so a generation will be willing to endure and inflict trauma for those who wish it.

Witness the horribly racist pictures of slant eyed, buck toothed, Japanese of WW2. Witness again the spiked helmeted Germans tossing babies on their bayonets and raping the innocent of WW1. The Vietnamese became “Charlie” or “Gooks”, people from the Middle East become “A-Rabs” and the list could go on. Almost any or everything goes if the powerful want to condition young minds to see the people they wish dead as something less than human and, by doing so, give them a pseudo-moral framework to justify the horrors they wish to make real. Every side plays the game. Sadly, it seems to be one of the great commonalities among us as a species. If the powerful want to keep or increase their power, they need willing bodies with willing minds shaped by and endless flow of information to overcome a sense of common humanity with the desire to kill.

Sometimes, of course, the programming won’t work, or it takes reinforcement. Witness the executions of French soldiers in WW1 who, seeing the slaughter and stupidity, refused to continue to perpetuate it. Witness, too, the moments of humanity in any war where people faced with the flesh and blood reality of things find ways, large and small, to be humans even as those above them try to keep them animals. Witness, as well, the veterans of long-ago wars who somehow, in reflection recover that which the state tried to strip from them, namely the understanding that the folks shooting at them were, in the end, just “Little people” doing what the “Big people” told them to do and even discovering friendships with those they had been told were not even worthy of life. Witness, finally, those who never recover, people for whom the programming “took” and never let go of its grip, people who spend the rest of their lives embittered at people they never met who were actually more like them than they ever knew.

One must kill in their heart before they can kill in the physical world and that death of the heart is probably the worst part of war and the place where war, even the “good” ones, most violates the Christian conscience. In war one must kill twice, first in the soul and then on the battlefield and even those who survive it all never quite leave that ugly place no matter how many parades are held or how shiny the headstones are kept.

Still, our basic humanity is strong because it is God given, it is part of the image of God that now even war can ultimately remove. And when war is upon us perhaps this is also where we can all agree. We can pray that somehow in a secret place in the heart those who instigate war and those who choose or are coerced into accepting it will have a tiny light inside that allows a single question “Why?” and from that “Why?” they’ll see what they are becoming, what they’ve been told to be often by those who are far away and very safe from where they are and their humanity will return.

2021

It is good to be here, dear friends, despite the world, the politics, and the general hysteria and anger.

Everything around has been reduced in the knowledge that almost everything can be taken away and all we have now is our faith, our prayers, and our belief to carry us on and through.

Therefore we have all we need.

These are interesting times

in the United States.

Those of us who’ve lived long enough have, of course, seen these before, more than we can count and, of course, each presents itself as “the” crisis of our times as if there was no before or after. For those who are younger without that history it must surely seem that way.

The genius of the American experiment is not that everything has always been perfect. In over two centuries there have been injustices, crimes, scandals, and any number of cringe worthy moments. It’s as historically blind to say these never happened as it is to say everything has always been riddled with them.

Rather, the wisdom of this Union lies in its capacity for self correction. Within its mechanisms has always been the means to face and correct what has gone astray, even if those mechanisms are, in and of themselves, riddled with human frailty. Of course, some things took too long, decades too long, but the point remains; they did happen and they still can.

Contrast this with the experience of those states where totalitarianism, of the Left or the Right, has been proposed as the avenue of utopian social change and been implemented on the promise. The record is clear, massive human rights abuses, a complete lack of respect for human persons and property, wealth for those in control with poverty for the masses, and death on an industrial scale.

Is our Union perfect? No, there is perfecting to be done. However the mere understanding that such perfecting can be done is why this Union, its constitution, its laws, its customs, and its potential for improvement, should be preserved if for no other reason that, even flawed, it is still the better alternative to any other and especially to those proposed by people who believe they can create the future by vandalizing the present.

I Hate My Country…

sometimes. We can be a very selfish people, self-centered, greedy, and given to violence. Often we seem like a culture with only goods and services and no soul, no heart, and nothing beyond the next gadget to buy. We can be promiscuous and vile, indulgent to our every whim as if it were the entire definition of our existence, and every feeling has become, for us, an ultimate truth to be defended at all costs.

I love my country…

because there is amazing beauty here, everything from the arctic to the tropical in one country. There is goodness here, as well, and if you understand that the movies, the TV, and the news aren’t documentaries so much as lurid attempts to get you to watch you’ll notice kindness, civility, charity, and friendliness in many places. We’re always among the most charitable nations on Earth and even though we could always do more we’re still moved by the poverty and tragedy of others. We forget them sometimes, but we really do have high ideals and there are very few countries that are as diverse of people, faith, and vision and yet have somehow still found a way to be together.

And because I love my country I recognize everything that’s wrong but still believe in what’s good and right and decent about us all. I enjoy traveling the world but this is home and I plan on fighting for the best of it, not with force or violence but by trying to be the best and most honorable person I can and by living my Faith to the greatest extent possible. I can’t control the past, but today, and the future, are surely something I can make better. And every time in the Liturgy when we pray for our nation, its leaders, the armed forces, every city and countryside and the faithful who dwell in them, I’ll mean it like I always have and perhaps even more.

Some might ask

if God is judging America and if the truth be known I don’t think so. My thought is that God is just, after we’ve had our tantrums,  letting have what we think we want and  the chaos and trouble we experience are the result. At some point in the future when we realize the reality of our what our choices have made happen God will be there ready to receive us back from our prodigal travels.

As the secular…

dark age settles in on America those who wish to live in the Light will increasingly find themselves marginalized from the structures of power and success as that age defines them. Those who understand will realize there is a freedom in that because being excluded from the trappings of a decaying culture means their hold on our imagination, our lives, and our souls, will also be broken. In the middle of an outward captivity we will be, on the inside, more free than we could have possibly imagined and it will be that freedom that will slowly but surely take back the darkness from both ourselves and the world we live in.

 

To Be Honest…

I’m disappointed with America right now, what we’ve become, the lengths it seems we’ve fallen from the good and how what is happening with us affects the larger world. Our freedom is becoming more and more about license and entitlement, our wealth is less about charity and more about hoarding, and our technology is slowly changing from servant to master. Our chief exports seem to be war and moral decay. Our chief imports are whatever toys we can get the poor and oppressed of the world to make for us at a price point to occupy us while our hearts empty and the world around us burns.

Trump and Clinton, we like to point out their mistakes, their scandals, their moral challenges, but they are us and we are them. They are a mirror for all of us and yet we don’t seem to understand that the person we see as we look is actually ourselves. We’ve got some rough years ahead and we may never remember to pull the chute as we free fall because we’re so busy looking at our phones on the way down.

The sadder part is that while this has been happening the church has often been the chaplain for the whole process of decay. Many churches are deeply compromised and, in fact, have become places where there is a veneer of Christian ritual covering a substance that is deeply and profoundly disconnected from the actual content of the Faith itself. Where there is a substance of Faith there is often a mass complacency to the real nature of the times, a denial of what is really happening around us and a bunker mentality that increasingly isolates us from the people who need us most, the lost, the confused, the massive numbers of people who are victims of these times.

Someone, and I forgot who it was said “Americans will do the right thing, after they’ve done everything else.” I think there is some truth to this. Perhaps, in time, the pain we’ve brought on ourselves from our continuing experiments in selfishness and decadence will finally get to be so high that some of us will start to think the unthinkable, the possibility that we were wrong when we thought that getting rid of the standards tested in time and the crucible of real world experience, the traditions if you will, was a bad idea. Already the cracks in our new world order are beginning to show and eventually even massive doses of TV and weed will not be able to medicate the pain.

Until that time we in the church need to strive as best as we broken people can to live the gift we’ve been given and share it at every opportunity. The times call for courageous, loving, and transparent people to stand for something that is very unpopular right now, the idea that there are things in the human experience that transcend the individual, things larger and more true than any emotion, purchase, urge, or perceived need. Your culture will find ways, at the present, to punish you for this because you will be, wherever you are, the child that reminds the emperors of this world that they really don’t have any clothes. Your mere presence will be an irritant to those who plan on making fortunes for themselves while the culture goes bankrupt, forgetting of course that the bankrupt culture will eventually make paupers of them as well. The way you live your life will be an affront to people who believe that power over others is the way to their utopia by eliminating the dissent that reminds them of their own emptiness.

So, there is hope but it will be hope realized in long term, peaceful, and activist struggle. The struggle of those who are looking for sanity to achieve it for themselves and then the struggle to change the world around them by sharing that sanity one person at a time until it prevails. Those who choose to take on the struggle will need to understand that for years they may have to be on the outside looking in as they make the deliberate choice to live as exiles in their own land until the day its soul destroying tendencies can be healed. For the churches that remain faithful there will have to be an almost entire change of vision, a reorientation towards the understanding that this America is already a pagan land, as it were, and that, far from being acceptable and normal in these times, we are a community often at radical dissonance with the world around us, a revolutionary body who have been called to be salt and light in ways that will make us uncomfortable as we are torn from our isolation and complacency. In the end only the churches that have refused to baptize the brokenness of this culture will have any meaning, substance, or even existence and we have to daily make a choice what kind of church we will be.

I’m disappointed in America right now. While in the larger and eternal scheme of things nations don’t matter because they’re temporary entities subject to change they can, in any one moment of time, be part of the larger human good. Right now this America I live in is often not. The only remedy I can see is to be fully a citizen of my actual and permanent country, the observant Christian will understand what I am saying, and that by doing so transform my temporary one.

Long live the revolution!

 

It’s a Crazy World Out There…

and a lot of people are shouting trying to be heard. Only God seems quiet these days as our culture seems to find ways to the bottom and then start digging. Yet, is that so?

I’m no prophet but the signs of the times in the United States appear to point to an era where observant Christians will no longer find support from the most of the major institutions of this culture, including many churches. Corporations, media, governments, and academia in many places are either not supportive of our lives, our visions, or our lifestyles, and often can be directly hostile. Truly the world of my childhood when towns were basically closed on Sundays is long gone and, in my lifetime, will never return.

So its a wilderness life for us until our culture cracks and breaks under the pressure of the many forms of brokenness that come to pass when people ignore the lived experiences of people over time we call tradition. It’s already starting as our nation, having jettisoned any idea of an overarching narrative informed by the graces of Christianity is becoming more diseased and turning on itself. Sanity will come, of course, but not after some years of tribulation while the old lessons being ignored are relearned through pain.

It can be all quite frightening to watch. Sad, as well. What kind of person can watch a society come unraveled without having some kind of compassion, especially a Christian? Yet, is it possible that in all the storms and hubbub God is not silent, but gently calling those who still seek Him to something beautiful, real, and holy. Stripped of all the trappings of the world’s support, could it be that we are being called back to our first loves, not the least of which may be the simple rediscovery of God?

We American Christians can make such an idol of our country, so much that we mistake its values for what should be our own, it’s ideals for ours, and it’s way of life for the life of Christ. That might be why so many of us are actually shocked and traumatized to discover that this culture in which we had put so much hope is starting to turn on us and one day might even use its power to make us outcasts in our own land.

Yet, our home, as observant Christians, was never truly in this land or any other for that matter. We belong to a Kingdom that can live in this world but ultimately is beyond it. If it is our lot to be exiles in this country the blessing in it may be that we rediscover Whose we are, who we are, and the very core of Truth about God, ourselves, and this world that’s been buried under the weight of an increasingly consumer and decadent culture.

The world is crazy, and I think, sadly, that we’ve not even come close to the end of the shouting all around us. Still, God is there, alive, present, and quietly inviting us to come to Him and find the real rest we’ve been seeking. In the end that still, small, voice, may be just exactly what we need to hear and the one place of true rest in a world of storms.

 

 

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