An unworthy Deacon, named for the brother of God: James, striving to "work out his salvation with fear and trembling" within the Tradition (paradosis) of the Eastern Orthodox Faith. It is a strange and marvelous journey, and I am accompanied by the fourfold fruit of my fecundity. My wife, the Matushka or Diaconissa Sophia, is my beloved partner in the pursuit of Theosis, and she ranks me in every way.
Fine, actually. Because I'm sick and tired of my supposed culpability in things happening thousands of miles away from me that I could not have possibly known anything about. And, on top of that, WHERE DOES IT END? Do you think there is ANY product in your house that could not in some way be seen as enabling or encouraging sin? If the CEO of Chevrolet uses his profits to frequent a prostitute, am I responsible for that too? What about the mountains of crap we import from China? Where does my responsibility begin and end and WHERE does the responsibility of people in Africa pulling triggers and enslaving people begin and end? Folks you start going down this road and you ought to quickly realize that you end up in the realm of chaos theory. Six degrees of separation applies here and before you know it you caused deaths via the Christmas Tsunami because you own a Prius.
Now don't get me wrong, I want to be conscious of the effects of my consumption and I am a BIG proponent of buying locally, but I am sorry I am not sinning by purchasing something that has a 10th tier item that some sick people think is profitable enough to kill or enslave over. You realize, of course that people have been killed here in the United States for iPods, right? So are iPods evil? Is Apple culpable for creating such a highly values product? Sure they are...line up the lawsuits!
Perhaps Sony may wish to concern itself about where it gets its tantalum, but folks I am guessing there are thousands of products out there that people are being inspired to do evil in order to gain from. If not tantalum, then it will be something else. Why? Because evil is found in the human heart, not in the environment (economic or otherwise). This is the big liberal lie we are fed: that if we just change the environment people will not be evil anymore. It's some sort of sick and twisted biological-darwinian determinism. People cannot help but kill one another given the right circumstances.
It negates free will and if you think about it, in a sense we are acting elitist in assuming that slavery and murder will naturally happen in Africa if we rich folk drive the price up high enough on something. Newsflash: human beings are culpable for their own actions. Read it again if you must. This is all about displacing guilt and frankly we have our fair share of it. But, Rwandan militias do not need the western thirst for tantalum to exploit and murder and I refuse to be culpable for that. I've got my sins...the person who pulls the trigger and orders kids into mines has theirs.
It seems to me that the closer you are to the actual sin, the more culpable you become. Putting the blame on others...the more distant the better it seems...is just an excuse to avoid personal responsibility. You can likely follow the tantalum from the time it leaves the mine to the time it ends up in someone's living room and I am convinced that whatever blood was on the product has been wiped off by the end. All the people involved ought to check their hands from beginning to end...but laying the blame on Sony as a corporation or consumers as a group is highly questionable, and completely misses the real problems in Africa in this specific case.
Well, it finally happened. Killick was caught munching on a chicken that we are relatively sure he didn't happen to find dead in the yard. I wonder how much he enjoyed eating the entire head? He plead innocence and claimed to have been trying to offer some culinary delights for the whole family. Despite his "evidence" (admittedly found in his kennel), I wasn't buying it. Anyway, we were saddened to find this because if they do it once they will do it again. Since the discovery and arrest you can see that if there were such a thing as doggy confession he'd readily seek it out, of course part of this might be inspired by the fact that he also now finds himself chained until the chickens go to bed at night. In the old days he'd be taken into the woods and shot...but...we love Killick dearly and we ourselves do not live or die via our chickens. That being said,a solution is in the works. More money and more work...is it any wonder anything gets done around here????
Part of the problem was that the raspberry vines have seriously settled the second flock's netting and they have been getting into the main garden where Killick has free reign. frankly we don't want the birds in there to begin with because they tend to dig and ruin our crops. Which leads me to discuss the glorious little stroll I had through the garden this evening. I expect a very nice harvest this year and it is wonderful to see my favorites thriving: Kentucky pole beans, some sorta corn, taters, and (hopefully) tomatoes! There's more of course...but my favorite is fresh picked green beans lathered in butter and salt. We have a great many beans this year and I am totally stoked. This garden will truly be a blessing to us this year. We literally are relying on it...and that fact feels good. This IS more than a hobby. Seeing all the growth has gotten me excited about busting some more sod for next year!
In other news...here is our new "farm truck":
It's far more fancy than I needed, but I could not pass up the deal my father was willing to give me on it - under normal circumstances this truck would have never found its way into my driveway. PLUS, it will (barely) hold the whole family, has low miles, and gets better mileage than the Suburban. I'm going to sell the canopy because for my needs it will just be in the way...and this will pay for my entrance into the Diaconal Vocations Program of the OCA which I received a blessing from both my priest and Bishop BENJAMIN to begin. With luck it will additionally help to pay for my first set of vestments, if and when that time comes - God willing.
Now that I have the truck though I need to try and play "catch up" with wood collection for the coming winter. I was hindered with my serious back problems in the Spring (probably I still am actually, but we'll see.) Keeping my eyes peeled for good deals on Craigslist. Not sure how I'm going to get enough.
Our priest is presently in the midst of some much deserved vacation time and so we have been working on doing Reader's services for Vespers - 3X a week (T, Th, and Sat). We have a wonderful group all working together and the first two have been pretty good. For ease of use we are at present just working from the Octoechos and generally steering away from stuff in the Menaion. However, I really think that after a few more tries at this and we could start adding the variables from the Menaion without too much trouble. I expect once Father C returns we'll have a choir that really has tones 4-7 down very well! It really is an exciting blessing to be part of a growing mission.
Astonishingly enough, it's true that ideas have consequences. World views have HUGE ones. Interesting article on The Dehumanizing Impact of Modern Thought: Darwin, Marx, Nietzsche, and Their Followers The Expelled film got a great deal of flack for associating Darwinism with the Nazis, but I'm not sure anyone stopped to think what changing world views were evolving at that time that might have inspired ideas of a master race? Not to mention a certain little dash of humanism that was also not lacking - as I am learning - in Soviet communism.
Yes, friends, when secularists like to bring up issues such as crusades, inquisitions, and witch burnings...you may wish to remind them that people living in glass houses ought not to start throwing stones. Alas, nothing in humanism, darwinism, or atheism has anything to say that would dissuade one necessarily from any particular Hitler-esque final solution. Amidst such parties anyway, Hitchens is right: Religion poisons everything.
As I was sitting at my desk toward the end of the day talking to some laboratory sales reps about the stuff I was NOT going to be buying from them, I crossed my right leg over over the thigh of my left, and noticed something hairy sticking out from the bottom of my shoe. Upon closer examination I realized I'd been tracking about a huge heap of encrusted hairy goat manure on the bottom of my shoe all day.
Most feces in the lab are kept in containers or in biohazard hoods.
I realize some of you may be weary of hearing about my adventures with this book, but alas, I am not. While many of us claim to know that the communists persecuted religious believers, I think few us know many details of the forms that persecution took. As with most persecutions it wavered between murder or re-education camps (gulags) where many died anyway to a host of laws intended to stifle religious belief. All of which combined with a healthy dose of state sponsored propaganda...somewhat like our "public service announcements" which are, for the most part, propaganda in favor of our society's mores.
The details are astonishing really. Laws in 1918 and 1929 forbade the religious education of children, this was of course a means by which the state was protecting children - or so they thought (think C.P.S. with a mandate to protect children from intolerant education or hate speech - recently in Canada a White supremest parent had her child taken from her. Make sure you pay close attention to the very last statement in the article.) However, in the 60's the laws were expanded and it became illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to even attend religious services! The 14th Komsomol Congress of 1963 declared that "no parent should be allowed to cripple a child spiritually." Furthermore it was established that since parental rights were a privilege granted by the state, the state could rightfully end those rights for the good of the child and for the good of the state. In other words, teaching your children about God was grounds for having them removed from your home and your parental rights terminated.
Seriously consider, if you will, as our society's mores and values continue to diverge further and further from traditional Christian mores and values, how long it will be before application of hate speech/crime, child welfare, or tolerance laws might begin to infringe upon Christian parental rights? I know it may seem a very long way off at this point, but I think it is worth considering. How long before what we deem to be "traditional values" today are viewed by a majority of society in the same way we largely view neo-Nazi values today? Thankfully, we here in America have not yet begun to even legislate against neo-nazi parents, but - for example - do you ever wonder if anything really happened with that Mormon splinter group that warranted having those families all torn apart by the state - even if only for a week or two?
PoMo's hate the word "Institution", but I've often argued that such hatred is really directed at a very specific (strawman) use of the term. I read once that a healthy society is founded upon and within a variety of "Institutions" among which are Church, family, marriage, neighborhoods, and government. I tend to agree with this assessment, generally. I've also read that we ought to be worried because to a large degree our society has abandoned all but one of these as being a "valid" institution: government. As such, government is now looked upon as the facilitator of everything once provided to us via a much larger variety of "institutions." And investing so much into the state ought to REALLY concern us because we are setting up a system which will have far too much interest in our personal lives - particularly those people whose personal lives do not mesh well with popular mores by which the government, particularly democratic ones, usually operates.
Our Lord warned us that we would be hated. He warned us we would be persecuted. So it really shouldn't surprise us if things really swing in this direction where in the name of diversity and tolerance we find ourselves under the rainbow tattooed iron fist of an antagonistic government. It could happen...in fact, in some places in the world it IS happening.
I'm not an economist, but I play one on the internet
So I'm reading about the world record breaking opening of the new Batman movie. And it got me to thinking about the doom and gloom we keep hearing about our nation's economy. So how is it that we are given the impression that we are on the verge of a new depression and yet we are able to give Hollywood not one, but TWO historic box office takings this weekend? (The film "Mamma Mia" - an ABBA musical, believe it or not - had the biggest opening ever for a musical!) In fact, as I hear it, getting a ticket to Batman was akin to being able to buy a Cabbage Patch Kid on Christmas eve in 1984.
I reckon a number of things could be at play here:
1) The economy is NOT as bad as some would have us believe.
2) We are stupid enough to go see Batman rather than eat.
If I had to guess, I'd say a little of both. You'd think that if the economy really was taking a terrible dive that one of the first industries to really feel the pinch BEFORE individual families would be entertainment and services (i.e. restaurants and anything else that normal poor folk do for themselves...like cook). Now, I realize this all comes around in circle to hit families (after all families own restaurants and Brad and Angelina et. al. are a family too) but, after this weekends box office numbers I'm a little surprised.
How much of our fiscal woes are due to our overly high expectations? I actually saw a report on the local news station in which a family was being paraded about as a pity story because they were forced to give up their cable TV in order to pay for gas. Wow...pity? Hmmm, we missed out on this: Giving up TV is something our family did over a year ago...but I'm not sure the local news would care to have known then, especially since we weren't quite so close to an election.
Don't get me wrong...we at St. Brigid Farm are feeling the pinch, especially at the gas pumps and at the Feed Store (thank you Bio-Fuels). And losing Firefly was a real wrench thrown into our plans as well. But we are making it still, even - gasp - on one income. That latter fact will tend to eliminate any hope for sympathy, but who's looking for sympathy?
Because I will say that we have probably never been better in control of our budget as we have been in the last couple of months. So, to that degree we are very thankful. I find it is far better to KNOW you don't have "blow" money than to be unsure and assume you do. I think that one of the keys to "Financial Peace" (hat tip to Dave Ramsey) is simply being knowledgeable about what money you have and what money you spend. Being debt free is something everyone should be actively pursuing and in my mind THAT is the very pinnacle of financial peace. After all, how many time do we hear about famous NBA stars (or whoever) that end up bankrupt? How does one manage that with multi-million dollar salaries? Well, just like poor people do it - usually - simply by living beyond your means. So quantity of said money has very little to do with financial peace.
A good president, if he or she REALLY wanted to make a difference in the nation's economy would exhort everyone to get better educated on finances. Working through a course of "Financial Peace University" would be a great start for everyone including our government! Doing so would go a very long way to doing far more that the false appearance of healthy economy (which is, in my opinion, exactly what we have had now for a long time now), but rather a truly healthy one in which one can be ridiculously wealthy or just scraping by (like us) and still have financial peace.
However, if we are in need of massive mortgage bailouts and yet we still give a single Hollywood film hundreds of millions of dollars in a couple of days...well...I'd say something is wrong with the picture being painted.
Tomorrow we celebrate the feast day of St. Elizabeth the New Martyr, our Mission's Patroness. There is always a bit of confusion as it seems many parishes celebrate this feast on July 5th, but in fact she was martyred on July 5th according to the OLD calender and therefore, according to the new calender, July 18th is when she actually left this earthly life. It is my understanding that the OCA is recommending that we celebrate her feast along with our brothers and sisters in Russia and on the date of her actual passing. I'm really not sure how we got stuck in the July 5th practice and why no one thought to originally have it on the 18th.
Anyway, St. Elizabeth's life is an amazing story for many reasons. Not the least of which is that she was a convert from the Lutheran faith and we have ample records of her struggle with that process of conversion - something many of us are familiar with, albeit from differing backgrounds. Within her writings we see a woman who truly came to embrace the Orthodox faith with intelligence, devotion, self-will, and a pure conscience. Not wishing to simply and blindly join the faith of her new husband, she took her time and learned to the point where she was able to defend her ultimate decision to skeptical and disagreeing family.
Today at her convent a memorial to her has been set up. I'm told there is an inscription which reads: "To the Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna: With Repentance." A powerful testimony (confession?) from a land coming to grips with its difficult past.
Tropar Tone 5 O God-wise Elizabeth, with humility thou didst hide thy nobility and honor Christ especially by imitating the labors of Martha and Mary. As a sacrifice to God, thou didst arm thyself with works of mercy, patience, and love. Seeing thy life of good works and suffering, we sincerly beseech thee, our true teacher. O Venerable Martyr, Grand Duchess Elizabeth, entreat Christ our God to enlighten and save our souls.
Kontakion Tone 2 Who can tell of thy great acts of faith, O long suffering Grand Duchess Elizabeth, while enduring death in the depths of the earth, thou didst radiate the brightness of Paradise. Rejoicing in psalms and hymns, thou didst pray with the angels for thy torturers, "O Lord forgive them for they know not what they do." O Christ our God, through her prayers, have mercy, and save our souls.
I'm presently in Reno Nevada visiting family AND buying a truck from my Dad which I will drive home starting tomorrow morning. Your prayers for safe travels are appreciated, I will have on board a collection of AFR podcasts and The Killer Angels audiobook to keep me awake as I plan to kill the nearly 800 miles in one day.
I continue to have deep thoughts born (well, as deep as mine get) from my reading of the book about the Soviet programs against the Church. While so much of what is reported in the book is heart-wrenchingly tragic, many portions are also frightening. The extent to which the Communist Party saw itself as the intellectually elite and sought to "free" the masses from their delusions is sometimes staggering to my little mind. So many policies were debated amidst the party in how to very carefully mount its evolving campaign against religion, always being careful to attack in ways that would not be overly offensive to the sensibilities of the people. They would waver back and forth thus giving the impression of having a variety of official stances toward religion, but in the truth of the matter is that the Party was simply trying to balance their program of destroying religious belief against the people's ability to endure it peacefully. Though sometimes they Party would swing toward a more radical approach and begin outright shooting or imprisoning people. But always the party believed as with Marx and Lenin that religion and socialism could not coexist.
One thing I find a little frightening is how the government under control of the Communist party was stripped of any and all affiliation with religious practices. I was reminded of our own nation in which anything connected with the government must be devoid of even the faintest hint of religious affiliation - even the mention of God is forbidden. If you think about it, it is truly astonishing that our coinage is still allowed to say "In God we Trust." I do expect this will soon be done away with. Anyway, hinging upon the Establishment Clause, the US government - so we are told - must be secular. If one embraces no religion, one is in effect an agnostic, I should think and perhaps an atheist - certainly practically one would be the latter.
This is fine and good and I would not ask that our government embrace Christianity or an other religion for that matter...but consider what happens when we wish to have said agnostic government do more and more for us and engage more and more aspects of our lives. Soviet socialism by its nature and design had the government involved in nearly everything, and as such their official stance of atheism was naturally poured out upon the people has well. Obviously this would be the case in their schools, but also in everyday necessary consumer life. Where could one buy a Christmas Tree if the state, which sold all goods, refused to provide them since that would effectively demonstrate support for a religious practice?
Now, don't get all knee-jerky on me. I'm not suggesting that we are on the road toward a Stalinist state. I simply concern myself with the ongoing secularization of our public offices (does the Establishment Clause really insist on this?) and the effects thereof as we seek to have the government provide more and more for our needs. Is there a place where such provision will bring with it secularism to a degree we are uncomfortable with? For some that point has already been reached in the context of the public schools, no? What exactly is entailed in a secular education? I'm not advocating a point in this regard, but I can certainly relate with those who are concerned about...where will the secularization end?
Well, I've been thinking out loud too much here and I didn't even intend to. I'd be curious to hear your thoughts on this matter. Where might you see a line being crossed as a secularized (agnostic? atheist?) government knocks at your door and offers to help? As a side...Bush and Obama's faith based initiative is in my mind the most ill-conceived line crossing I could imagine at this point - and it's real.
No time for proof reading...so you must, alas, endure my errors.
Is there beauty in your life? I mean real beauty, not that cheap imitation that pop culture gives us - though some semblance of real beauty may exist such as in a quality film or book from which you walk away with tear filled eyes exclaiming: "That was beautiful!" These rare instances of expressions of beauty often mirror the real life happenings of beauty that are seemingly so rare. I am at the moment reminded of that scene toward the end of Schindler's List wherein the immensity of what he has done and what he has failed to do, causes Oscar Schindler to break down into tears. It's a well executed and powerful scene in large part because it is (obviously) embedded in extraordinary circumstances. Few of us, thankfully, will face opportunity to engage in that sort of beauty.
Sometimes however, I think we hold beauty upon too high a pedestal and fail to see that its potential for existance is far more common than we might think. Hollywood, though often able to express such beauty, tends to mislead us even in its common everyday applications (such as in family relations) by showing us impossibly perfect scenes enmeshed with impossibly perfect dialogue. This now set too high bar, I think, tends to deceive us into seeing everyday life as mundane. We thus seek "drama" amidst more Hollywood, and more TV. Have you met the sort of person who seems so devoid of an ability to see beauty in their own life that they seek artificial drama around them and so often unable to find that, then live their lives through TV programs? I have...talk about mundane: I do not think I can stomach another watercooler conversation about the exploits of last night's reality TV charachters.
Beauty is everywhere we go. Why? Because we are there with the ability to bring a small icon of God's redemtive work; a small unseen chalice of the living water that ought to be sprining up from within us. Nothing is mundane unless we make it so. Nothing lacks drama unless we make it so. Nothing is boring unless we make it so. I just think we fail to see how much power we wield in the world and in the people around us. A smile, a kind word, a small act of goodness, a small sacrifice of time or energy to do good...there is power in these things to change lives and the world. The effects are sometimes either unseen or long in coming and they often require repetitive application and dedication to yield fruit. But each and every act of love is the manifestation of real beauty in our lives and we (I) need to open our (my) eyes to see this reality. In each moment, we have the potential to best hollywood and TV by magnitudes.
The only problem is that expressions of real beauty are self-sacrificial and as such they do not come easily or "naturally." They take effort. Sometimes a very great deal of effort and if I may, I would suggest the work of manifesting everyday beauty is far harder than one great big expression of beauty amidst extraordinary circumstances. I think this is partly true because the big events are so easy to see as being a moment of potential beauty and it requires but one sacrificial effort. Moment by moment sacrifice? Now that's hard. But, let me be clear here, I am not talking about looking for opportunities to push people out of the way of speeding cars. No, it can be as simple (difficult?) as laying aside what you deem to be important at a given moment and sittin down to play a laborious game of Risk with your boys.
Christ, of course is our supreme example. We all know the Icon entitled Extreme Humility, but what we (I) often fail to remember is that we are (I am) supposed to mirror that beauty filled icon in our own everyday lives. I truly believe that in so doing we will change ourselves, our friends and family, and the world. If you really want your vote to count, don't wait for November, vote now for extreme humility (and consequently beauty) in your own life right now.
Lord, open my eyes and heart to see the potential for beauty in my everyday life. Help me, then, to pursue it.
As I am preparing to start work on my first batch of blackberry wine (I'm waiting for the blackberries!), I found this: The caption reads: Orthodox priest, Father Antony, tests the ancient Russian fermented-bread drink known as kvas in a basement of the fifteenth-century Savvino-Storozhevsky Orthodox Monastery in Zvenigorod, 35 miles west of Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, July 1, 2008. For over 600 years, monks at the Savvino-Storozhevsky Monastery have been brewing kvas for themselves, and seven years ago began selling it. Unlike mass-produced varieties, the monastery's kvas has no preservatives and spoils within five days.
I love this: "They sneer at competitors with their artificial preservatives." Haha...you can almost hear: "Was it artificial preservatives in 19th century Russia? NO IT WAS NOT!" Of course, they go even further: "It is not profitable for them to make live kvas," Father Ignaty said of Russia's commercial kvas producers. "So they're forced to poison people...As Father Antony said, his brew is "blessed by God."
Your Randomly Mutated and Naturally Selected Orthodoxy
As we all know, your genes make you who you are. Further we know that ultimately there is no question with regard to both human nature and essence that neo-darwinism cannot answer, including why you are Orthodox (Jewish or Christian), or Muslim, or atheist...uh, ummm....no actually, not the latter, that is actually accomplished by means of supreme force of intellectual will and enlightened thinking. Ahem...where was I? Oh yes:
So there are evolutionary explanations for we we stupidly hold to false beliefs in gods, after-life, and such. Furthermore, they apparently have all manner of scientific evidence to back all of this up. I am reminded (given my current reading) of how the Soviets actively pursued scientific means of destroying religion...they would have loved this stuff! The Communists actually offered science degree programs in college that were specifically geared toward disproving religious claims. They readily funded research to do so as well...hmmm...sounds familiar.
Anyway, an intriguing rebuttal of the secularist conclusion for all this "evidence" may be found summarized here. Essentially it says that even if all the data and evidence are correct, the conclusion is wrong. Brilliantly done.
Greatest Accomplishment: "No Biological Children."
An article about a UW researcher looking at declines in penguin populations. There were actually several news articles, but I was unable to access the published paper...but the news articles offered NO evidence to suggest a direct link between the penguins' population problems and human population/behavior. It is simply assumed...and however logical it may seem you cannot do that in science I'm afraid. We've had it so beaten into our brains so that anytime something bad happens in nature we immediately assume two things: global warming and humans as the cause.
But when I read this in the Seattle PI article, I knew the type of person who was doing this research:
Boersma hopes that her research will draw attention to the penguin problem before it's too late. She cites an ever-growing human population as the root of the threat to penguins. When asked recently about her greatest accomplishment, she said it was "having no biological children."
"Most people say their great accomplishment is having two children, or four or six, but it's at the expense of the rest of what we want to have in the world," she said. "If we don't get a handle on reducing human consumption and population, we're not going to have the other species I want to see in the world."
You've likely heard me joke about it, but folks I am telling you this attitude is representative of those who are DRIVING the discussion on the environment these days and you wait until they are brave enough to publicly tie the issues of abortion and euthanasia to climate change...you wait, because I guarantee you it will happen. I've met them and I've had them tell me to my face that if they could, they would have me heavily taxed for the burden I've placed on this planet via my four children.
Maximum number of offspring, mandatory abortions, mandatory euthanasia...all quite viable solutions in their minds when we are standing on the precipice of a "planetary emergency."
How very far we have come. Thomas Edison's light bulbs are only the beginning. If you think I'm being paranoid, then you've not been paying attention to what's being said - albeit quietly for now. There is disdain in the voice: YOU breeders...YOUR children are killing us all and wiping out penguins for good measure, too. You should be ashamed. Mourn, lament, weep...how will you atone for your reproductive sins?
Oh don't get me started...I'm in an ornery mood already. Yes, I'm gonna go home and just let my chainsaw and lawnmower idle for a few hours doing nothing, and then I'm going break all my CFL's and ship them to Al Gore asking him to please dispose of them for me properly.
You may recall a while back I was lamenting the little nightmare of a broken CFL in my boys' room. In that post I criticized the Canadian government for banning them, but what I didn't know was that our illustrious DO-NOTHING congress did at least something: back in December they put into a law a ban on the incandescent light bulb beginning in 2014. Great.
I guess the question is whether the energy savings and the threat of global warming (both real or imagined) is worth the risk of mercury in your house and the labor of disposing of these bulbs properly (were that possible - remember my questions with regard to EPA math?). Also nice to know that we have less choice now and that what choice we do have come only from China from whence we have had a litany of safe products lately, right? Great.
...but today marks the 145th anniversary of the end of the Battle of Gettysburg, a three day fight that culminated in Pickett's Charge which would come to be known as the high water mark of the Confederacy.
Hunter Haynes signed up to be a police officer for the UN mission to Kosovo. He went believing the basic storyline that Serbs were the bad guys and the Albanians were innocent victims. What he discovered was that the story was far more complex and in the end his experiences would lead him to embrace the Orthodox faith.
Previously I talked about the trend I believe we are seeing in the western world whereby the secularization of society is successfully and unintentionally being accomplished to a degree that Soviet Atheism’s blatant and deliberate attempts could only dream (and lie) about. Not that outright atheism has overrun religion (though arguably significant portions of Europe’s population is largely atheist now), but rather that affluence, moral and intellectual relativity, and the “privatization” of faith has lead to a form of everyday “practical” atheism. I see this in my own life, where too often I compartmentalize my faith into realms of convenience.
Marx and Lenin believed that religion arose out of ignorance of the natural world and a need to psychologically deal with life’s many tragedies and thus science combined with technological advancement would erase the error of religion. However, Marx and Lenin – as you all no doubt know – see in history a story of great and ongoing economic clashes between the “have’s” and the “have-not’s.” The “have not’s” have thus been unable to share in the benefits of education and technology (medicine, farming advancements etc) and so, the communists reasoned, it is no wonder that religion persists even in their age of remarkable advancements. Creating a large vicious cycle, religion also became a tool of the “have’s” by which they could keep the “have not’s” focused on the future (heaven) so as not to worry so much about their present unjust sufferings. However, one should not be confused into thinking that Marx and Lenin felt this was a misuse of religion, they adamantly believed that religion itself perpetuated this problem by its very nature.
I often wonder to myself: how does one answer this criticism of religious faith? Are Marx and Lenin right? I mean, it is true that our faith teaches us that there are far worse things than poverty, right? Are we not also taught – repeatedly and rightly – of the dangers of wealth and affluence? Where your treasure is, there also will your heart be? A general leaning toward being content with what you have? Slaves obey your masters? Of course there is the flipside in that the rich are exhorted to give. We are all called to care for the poor – the widow and the orphan. And throughout our Church history we have example after example of Saints abandoning their worldly comforts (giving them away) and embracing a life of poverty (virtue to be found in poverty? Virtue in suffering?). Anyway, clearly the communists are not entirely accurate in their criticism, for while the poor are exhorted to be content, the wealthy are by no means exhorted to horde their wealth…quite the opposite really.
Sometimes I wonder what precisely was Marx and Lenin’s ultimate goal. I suppose it may be a sort of chicken or egg question, but here it goes: Is Marxism’s primary goal the abolition of human suffering, or the abolition of human religions? In other words, what really drove their political philosophy? Some of Marx’s comments betray far more than a mild distaste for religion and since they were both intimately linked in their minds (like the chicken and the egg), I’m not sure they could have conceived of an economic utopia that retained religious faith. Which then leads me to wonder if there really could be an economic utopia that not only retained religious faith, but was actually founded upon religious faith?
I’ve heard more than one person claim that the early church was a proponent of socialism. And while there is a world of difference between church leaders in a hostile environment exhorting members to share amongst one another and the establishment of a massive government system (and in a decidedly secular context as well), I did myself spend sometime seriously thinking about applying the early church’s practice to the government. Yes, I was a massive Ron Sider fan and upon my dorm room door was this little quote which I think I made up: “Socialism fails because of man’s sinfulness; Capitalism succeeds for the same reason”, and to be honest I’m rather certain I put it on my door more to irritate people than much anything else…likely a foundational reasoning for many a bumper sticker. (A tangent, I’m sure, but what is the deal with political bumper stickers? Have they ever changed ONE mind? Clearly my "FRED" sticker accomplished nothing!)
Anyway, an interesting trend has been developing amongst even some evangelical Christians in which we see more left leaning politics being espoused under the banner of Christian teaching. It has grown for some to the extent that unlike Marx and Lenin who saw nothing but the poor being told to be content in the gospels, these folks see nothing but class liberation in the gospels (the poor, the stranger – aka minorities, or whoever might be suffering). For some this further evolved into a teaching (condemned by the Catholic Church) known as “Liberation Theology.” Like Marx and Lenin did with history, these folks have done with Scripture such that the Christian gospel and Judaic history is illustrative of liberation from unjust political and social tyranny of economics, racism, colonialism, or whatever “ism” one may deem suitable. However, this is an extreme, for many it simply means taking Christ’s commands to care for the widow and orphans to the voting booth. Thus Christ still saves us from death and sin and not economic class injustice. I don't personally agree with asking the government to do that, as it involves forcing people to take care of the poor and needy and I don't see that act as being in harmony with the Gospel. Further, it puts my Christian charity into the VERY heavy hands of a secular government that upholds all the socio-political emptiness of materialism and diversity I mentioned previously. I'd prefer a more personal approach, but that's another tangent and I'm liable to step on toes and besides I am happy to respect other people's right to be wrong on this point. ;)
Anyway, I wonder what Marx and Lenin would think of Liberation Theology? We know they approved of wealth redistribution via the government and further that the government ("the people") ought to have ownership of businesses and industries, and that there ought to be fiscal equality amongst all people. They would no doubt approve of an economic-sociological class warfare reading of Scripture...but could they get past their distaste of religious faith to see the usefulness of it as a tool? To perhaps let go of their insatiable desire to enlighten the religious masses with the natural sciences, and instead embrace religion as a pro-revolutionary force?
In reading Lenin it is hard to imagine this ever happening. As with most extreme leftist movements, humanism is usually the ultimate inspiration and such philosophical underpinnings have a difficult time reconciling with a belief system that does not uphold humanity as being subject to nothing. But, just such a humanist life philosophy is in fact evolving around us today, even if it is couched within a theistic facade...as I said before: it is a sort of practical atheism and humanism, and from my perspective our government can do little else - by its nature and the current environment that determines it - than support it. This being the case, I find myself having more and more libertarian leanings. And now, working for the State has completely reinforced this. The last thing I want to see happening is for "Faith based Initiatives" to bring state sponsored Diversity and Cultural Sensitivity Training to our churches...and that's just the tip of the PC iceberg that will come home to roost if we invite it.
Here's an interesting little article about "Liberation" theology from Touchstone. It's particularly good because it compares the standard socio-political liberation beliefs with the "health and wealth" gospel and demonstrates how they both share the same basic flaw in their theology.
Anyway, I've just begun getting into the meat of the book "A History of Marxist-Leninist Atheism and Soviet Anti-Religious Policy" and it is already driving me to numerous audible expressions of astonishment (I must drive my fellow van pool riders nuts!). This true story, within which are innumerable dramas, clearly needs to be more widely told. I expect I'll have more to share later.
It seems to me the "peace scooter" in seeking to encourage people to create their own definition of peace and live it, has set for herself a rather vague and undefined purpose. Plus there is little mention on how her visit to Seattle was particularly effective at accomplishing this nebulous goal. With drivel like this: "Alix will end her Peace Tour...no doubt wiser and fulfilled with the message she helped spread across the country" I can only assume the reporter is an avid supporter.
I guess maybe I'm just not nuanced enough. Well, that's a given.
What took you so long? They had a "respected" bishop deny the Resurrection and other primary tenets of the Christian faith go undisciplined and you needed an active gay one getting ordained to finally give up? I know, I know...straw that broke the camel's back...but in my mind denial of the Resurrection was rather sufficient.
In any event...a raise my glass to them. And also....shhhh...I invite them over. :)