Many Years Ago…

guns were available at hardware and sporting goods stores, no background check and all the ammunition you could afford. Walk in, buy, walk out. You could even order them via catalog if you didn’t want to leave the house. My grandfather, as a young man, even had access to dynamite to help remove stumps from the ground.

Yet, no mass shootings basically anywhere. So what’s the difference between then, in the freewheeling bad old days of virtually no gun control and now? I don’t think its the guns. I do think its us.

The one difference I can see between then and now is that back then there was a larger moral framework rooted in a Judaeo Christian ethic where “Thou shalt not kill (murder)” was still taken seriously, and even the mobsters took care to follow it in their own way by trying to minimize “civilian” casualties.

Leap forward to now and that narrative is largely gone, done in by a culture where even some sense moral and social caution is identified as repression, where human identity is entirely divorced from any concept of the image of God and reduced to a basic consumer equation, and violence as a routine solution to human challenges has filled the moral vacuum with a hundred little deaths and, from time to time, explosions of death that make the headlines.

Politicians, bathed in this culture, see only more and different kinds of laws as the solution because they have forgotten about, or deliberately sought to undermine, the law inside a human heart. A moral human, properly formed, encouraged, and supported by a larger spiritual and ethical imperative, will hesitate to do violence even when its tools are close at hand but a person who has no  proper morals, and lives in a culture where there is no larger context than how a person feels at any given moment, will use any tool at hand and no law can, or will, stop them. Witness the couple in San Bernadino who obtained the weapons used in the horrific crime outside of the existing laws.

No, I’m not advocating a weapons free for all. What I am advocating is something that most politicians, pundits, and sometimes even preachers have forgotten. We need a moral revival, a return to a larger moral narrative that affirms human life, impresses a moral responsibility on its members to strive above all to do no harm, and calls us away from our consumer driven, violence saturated, world. That revival will start when Christians decide to be Christians again and churches do the same.

 

 

 

 

I Live in a World of Rage…

born of selfishness and entitlement unfulfilled. All around me the world I live in shouts “What you feel is what is real and what you feel you need is what the rest of the world is obligated to provide.” When this is not true, which is more often the case than not, I am told that raging against whatever is outside of me that has failed my feelings is my right, my obligation even, until the ever-changing feelings and needs inside of me are satiated.

I reject this even as I understand that in doing so it can be like a fish rejecting water. This is the ocean I swim in, the river that is my home, and the pond where I was born, and yet I know this, all around me, is not the real world even as it surrounds me everywhere. So I resist as I can, asking God for peace, for insight, and a sense of eternity in the world of time. My own world is too small and it is constantly unsettled and angry because of its smallness and in moments when I am distant from the Truth I can feel the anger of my tiny world’s unfulfilled entitlement swelling inside until I am ready to burst.

I must die, daily even, to this small world and its rage. Daily I must recall its illusions, its shadows, and its emptiness. Instead of the thousand shouting voices all around me telling me  to burn and hate and consume and make war I must listen to the one voice that matters, the still, small, voice that comes after the storm and earthquakes and fire have passed. That is the voice of God. The rest is madness.

 

 

Being Orthodox…

When times are challenging I’m reminded of how good it is to be an Orthodox Christian. Now that’s not a put down of anyone else so much as a simple remembrance of the great gifts that Orthodoxy shares with unworthies like myself.

Connected directly to Christ through the Apostles? Check. Over 2000 years of lived experience and wisdom in the Faith? Check. Saints and friends to guide, and pray for, me as I live this life? Check. Rock solid commitment to everything that truly matters in the Faith? Check. True love and mercy from the Source of such things? Check.

Certainly I know that I’m a sinner and need to always keep close to God. I know, as well, that I’m in a community of people like me so everything isn’t hunky dory all the time. Still, however the world goes  I’ve been given much, all of it underserved but still gratefully received. If the world does temporarily go to hell in a handbasket (and my Faith teaches me that all such times are only temporary)  I’m glad I have something deep, rooted, and strong, even in weakness, to help see me through.

Sometimes that can make all the difference.

As I Have Grown Older…

I have come to view the weeks of spring with a greater sense of appreciation. As the snow fades and the green emerges from the ground I feel the cool air give way to warmth and listen to the birds announce life’s return to the trees. There is a kind of gentle hope in all of that, a hope that means more to me now that I realize there are more years behind than ahead, more days past than days to come.

Hope and spring allow me to endure the craziness of the world, the sense of the whole thing flying off its axis and spinning madly through space and time. More than anything else these days I’m simply sad at what I see around me, a great delusion with victims who have no idea of how to escape and transcend. I find myself caught up in it as well, drowning in a stormy sea and waiting for the Master to reach down and pull me from the waves. Yet, at least  I know there’s a Master there and couldn’t imagine what it would be like if I didn’t. Such is the world these days, the world of headlines, 24 hour access, and a culture designed to make drones of us all.

Then spring comes and resurrection and a still, small, voice speaks with a clarity beyond the storm. Life begins anew. It always does. Crazy, bitter cold winters can wreak havoc with their temperamental winds driving us to huddle inside by any fire we have left to keep us warm. Yet they never last. Life, sanity, joy, better things, they always return. Sometimes, of course, there is much pain in the journey to that return, but the return, like spring, is inevitable.

One day my body, worn down by all the days that have passed will enter its winter slumber. One day the world around me will enter its night as well. Perhaps it already has. Yet I will rise and so will the world, both by the same force, the grace of God, God’s eternal spring which even death, the death of a person or the death of a culture, cannot overcome. What the birds in the trees announce now. the angels will then, and so the hope inside me never dies.

 

 

When Someone…

tells you, as a Christian, that “You’re on the wrong side of history” remember two things. First, history is fluid. What is on the “wrong side of history” now may very well change as the times change. We know from our recent Orthodox experience that the Communists were confident that history was on their side and religion would disappear. In actuality only a few moments of history, painful ones for sure, were theirs and then only partially. Only those who have no understanding of eternity place all their hope in a moment or era of history. The second thing to know is that history is in God’s hands and to be with, and in, God is always to be on the right side of history because it is His realm. Moments come and go, but God, and all things godly, endure.

It’s Not So Much…

the spiritual and moral breakdowns I see all around me that causes me to fear. More often than not I simply grieve for those people who are looking for something, accepting less than the best, and then suffering the consequences. We’re paying a steep price because we thought that by discarding the “rules” we would be free, and have, instead, often found ourselves in even greater slavery.

What gives me pause, though, is that one day at the darkest point of this breakdown, people will not choose to understand that the solution is the rebuilding of themselves as moral and spiritual beings but will rather opt for the easy answer of a dictator, someone who promise them simple answers, scapegoats for their problems, and takes away freedom in the guise of providing security and predictability.

That truly frightens me.

Wisdom…

“We cannot ask God and His holy saints that they remove all the difficulties from our missionary road and everything that causes us moral suffering. We can only pray that He help us carry the cross, and enable us to survive the difficulties and sufferings that await us on our missionary road. Our service is giving birth to spiritual children for God; and what birth is not accompanied by pain? And for this we must be prepared in advance. But we have a source of great consolation. To serve with energy and success we must have confidence beforehand that our labor is not in vain and that our work will be crowned with success.”

(St. Nicholas of Japan)

Mindful Meditation…

is good for you, so the article says. Well, we Orthodox Christians have been “mindfully meditating” for over 2000 years and have a very well developed tradition in this area. One of the great tragedies in our Faith  is that so many Orthodox have less than a clue about the rich meditative tradition of their own Faith. They will seek out gurus, yoga teachers, pundits, and new age practitioners unaware of the deep riches into which they were baptized. The very things they will pay money to discover are those things which Orthodox Christian Faith has given away to seekers since Christ walked the Earth.

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