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.
The amount of biological determinism expressed here is pretty darn hefty...though not surprising. It's all the rage in sociology today to find evolutionary answers to explain what we see around us...after all (they poorly assume) everything we are is a result of natural selection in one way or another.
CNN Poll: Majority says government a threat to citizens' rights
Interesting poll results. Of course we don't know exactly how the question was phrased, but really this concept (that government is a threat to individual liberty) OUGHT to be BASIC EDUCATION delved out in any and all US Civics courses. Taking a poll on it ought to be akin to asking: should the government operate via a system of checks and balances and thus be composed of an executive, legislative, and judicial branch? Duh!
The irony here is that - as I've always said - Atheists (like all of us) are a bit afraid of WHO has the government's ear. We shouldn't have to be.
Think how odd it is that people with particular viewpoints on the existence of a supreme being are concerned about what the government is going to do and how it is going to act with regard to their beliefs.
Like that old Foreigner song, I seriously want to know what love is. I talk about it a great deal and I tell people that I feel it in regards to them...but I don't think I really have a grasp on the PRACTICE of love. I am simply FAR FAR FAR too self-involved. Reaching beyond myself to love others sometimes feels as difficult as a drowning man who cannot swim trying to stay on the surface of the water.
I know what love LOOKS like. But day in and day out, do I practice it? Once in a great while, the cold selfish heart is stirred to warmth and love for others...but it doesn't happen enough.
I found this quote today:
God is a fire that warms and kindles the heart and inward parts. Hence, if we feel in our hearts the cold which comes from the devil - for the devil is cold - let us call on the Lord. He will come to warm our hearts with perfect love, not only for Him but also for our neighbor, and the cold of him who hates the good will flee before the heat of His countenance.
St. Seraphim of Sarov
Without a doubt, I do NOT call on the Lord enough. So, should I expect anything to change given this?
If you are like me, you may find a certain weariness in all the online "forgiveness sundays" whether on facebook or blogs or whatever, and yet here I go perpetuating the internet Orthodox tradition. To some degree it is fitting that we do virtual prostrations to one another because this venue is such that we may readily offend one another - both in that we cannot see our facial expressions or hear our tones of voice that might soothe what would otherwise be taken as very harsh words, but also because for some reason we tend to say things that we would not say in person.
Having blogged now for almost 8 years, it's no surprise that in that time I have offended some people, though I should be careful to say that I could have just started yesterday and I likely would have offended people. There's no question that as I look back at those 8 years, I have definitely evolved (or perhaps devolved depending on who you may ask) as a person...there are more than a few posts I would certainly not write today, and many more I would write differently. Most of these revolve around themes of politics which I know some would have had me avoid to begin with...and I admit there is wisdom in that opinion. It grieves me that politics are seemingly so divisive, perhaps they have always been that way and I just happen to notice it more now as an adult. I'm not sure. But, what I AM sure of is that I am really saddened by offenses I have given through my self-righteousness, my condescending tone (both real and imagined), my arrogance, and my lack of charity...my failings grieve me and I ask for forgiveness.
But, starting Lent off isn't just about seeking forgiveness for offenses given, but it is also about ALL of ours sins we commit - even those which no one but us and God know about. Even these sins are offenses to all of creation. So for these as well...I also grieve over these (though likely less...if I am to be honest).
I truly am seeking to have some fundamental changes in my heart during this season of the fast. I pray that I may be a good student at the "school of repentance."
Last summer I began reading Ayn Rand's book “Atlas Shrugged” and just recently I was watching an episode of John Stossel's new program which was discussing the book, its renewed popularity, and its is apparent prophetic coming to life today. In fact, mention was made that at the time of its first publication, one of the chief complaints about the book was that it was too unrealistic; too far fetched to be taken seriously. No one is saying that now.
Rand was a rather rabid atheist and a huge proponent of “rational self-interest.” Criticisms, particularly from a Christian perspective, of her personal philosophy are absolutely warranted, however, as an atheist she is certainly living out the logical ends of her worldview (She herself of course would suggest that her personal philosophy is the absolute most effective way for any notions of a practical “Christian” social justice to be realized). In any event, someone once asked me, with a certain degree incredulity, if I'd “gotten anything out of the book?”
It's a good question, and I'd say my answer is yes. Applying Rand's philosophy personally is, I find, an ugly proposition. How we as individuals interact with other individuals is a foundational component of community and I simply cannot abide by Rand's notion of “rational self-interest” when dealing personally with other people. There is no better way to wreck havoc in your life than to live solely with yourself in mind, indeed this is the cornerstone of the Fall. But, that being said, I do not believe that government is a personal entity, however much it may be made up of individuals...no more than a corporation is a person. Therefore, when it comes to how the state ought to oversee and navigate itself through our dealings, I think Rand's general philosophy of individual self-interest and responsibility ought to be the assumed natural and right way of being for people. This is individualism (much dreaded in many Orthodox circles I am familiar with), but only in as much as it applies to how the secular authorities view and treat us; it has no bearing on our personal or even our community lives. It seems to me that philosophically, morally, and literally with regard to our particular government's founding that the principle function of government is to protect individual liberty and NOT to seek to foster community. In other words, the state should make little to no effort in forcing grander perceptions of “Christian” community or social justice upon us. For you see, I believe real community can only exist when free peoples freely associate themselves with one another. Threat of punishment is by no means any way to foster community...it must be organic and the state has no notion of such things. Thus, while I see little application of Rand's philosophy in my personal life, I do see a great deal of application for how the government should view us as free persons.
But, some will ask of me, what of the Gospel commandments to love one another? And I would simply say that that is precisely why I reject living my life personally by the Randian “Objectivist” code. However, I do not believe the Beatitudes were ever intended to, nor should they be, set into motion by force of law. I believe the best of intentions when passed on to the megalith of government oversight and enforcement will almost always inevitably fail in seeing truly positive results, and I believe this is especially true of the teachings of Christ. The government cannot love, it cannot express true Christian charity, and any attempts it may make at doing so will be treading upon very thin ice – balancing precariously between fulfilling moral obligations it never had to begin with and tyranny. An ever recharging welfare debit card does more to build dependence than to free a person via charity that comes quite naturally when delivered incarnationally. Community isn't expressed through our government, I believe that very firmly, though I know this may put me in minority status for it would seem that more and more we as a society look less and less to one another and more and more to the state as the source of...well...as the source of nearly everything if you stop and think about it. And therein lies the entire crux of the reasoning for the ongoing culture war and the divisiveness that not only haunts this land, but as I've personally seen, ends friendships that should have been able to weather such debate.
Watch and listen. I've recently been witness to Christians raising up their ramparts and manning the war towers at the very hint of something with even a slight political feel to it. And I wondered, from where does this passion come from? Why are we so committed...DEEPLY committed to fretting over who has our government's ears and eyes? And it's not as if I've not been equally devoted to these fears in the past, but I think there is something in “Atlas Shrugged” that has helped me to see a more clear picture of this situation. I believe the strife and even anger (Christians angry at one another because of how they cast their votes!?!?!) arises from the fact that we have charged government (both in our minds and in reality) with the task of manufacturing community. Both sides of the popular political spectrum do this, albeit in different ways. So much so that, in the end we all wring our hands nervously worrying over what government may do to wreck havoc in our lives. The examples are endless: Homosexuals worry they will not be allowed to be themselves and marry one another; conservative Christian parents worry that the state schools will teach their kids that it's wonderful that “Johnny has two dads!” Another group worries the tax code will destroy their small business. Another worries that that the tax code will not raise enough to provide for the needs of the poor or uninsured. In essence, we truly believe that the government will be the deciding factor on what our community is like and thus we have gone miles and miles away from “free persons freely associating” and have arrived at something altogether different which we all ironically fear and yet continue to try and redeem. And such attempts at redeeming the problem only makes it worse, because we simply invest MORE community-making authority in the body we fear and while one side may gain temporary victories, they ought to realize that the very power they have vested in the government today which actualizes one vision of community, may tomorrow be used to smash that vision and rebuild another far less desirable to those who first bestowed the authority upon Washington DC to begin with. We perpetuate the fear and the war.
The dissolution of friendships – and God forbid even Christian fellowship – because of an inability to “agree to disagree” on political matters says perhaps something specific of the people involved, but I think it also says something about the broader socio-political culture we have grown here. It does not speak kindly of it, I think. I’m under no illusions that my somewhat apolitical libertarian stance on the matter doesn’t divide me from both of the standard sides of the fence (I have sympathies on both sides…perhaps more one than the other), but I really believe that as things get worse, the divisiveness more unbearable, and culture war rages on…perhaps people will begin to ask why we argue so much.
I don’t know what would happen if we were to actually see Atlas shrug. But I think the passions that politics raises up in us is of bigger concern. Controlling or even snuffing them out is probably the only thing for which we can manage to have hope for change.
Yes, here in Washington we must go to state run liquor stores in order to purchase our spirits. LAME. (Yes cue the MUSIC.) Nothing irks me more than a monopoly (i.e. how many choices do I have for phone service or cable?) except a monopoly run by the government, for reasons that ought to be obvious: in the case of liquor stores, I break a law by having spirits shipped to me, while I'm yet free from corporate police who might rush in when I cancel my land line and use a cell provider alone for my phone service. In any event, a while back I found this:
And then THIS bit of hopeful news. Well...hopeful for a second or two anyway, since no sooner had the bill come into existence than it was shelved. Gregoire dodges the issue by claiming it doesn't immediately answer the budget crisis...well duh who cares about that! This is an issue of FREEDOM, not your screwed up budget. I mean if you want to use that as a point of leverage with those who don;t care about freedom, then fine...but the fact is I should be able to go to Walmart and buy a case of beef jerky, some spanish peanuts, a new Wii game, some lemons, and a bottle of Single Barrel Evan Williams Bourbon ON SALE in order to compete with the same product down the road at Albertson's supermarket. I should not have to go to the booze equivalent of the DMV where there is NO competition, terrible inventory selection, and never a decent sale.
Ironically, they do actually have sales each month ("temporary price reductions") and I always laugh because it's sorta like they are pretending to be a real store than needs to have sales to COMPETE. I always tend to think about trapped rodents being given a sedative to get them not to panic about being trapped..."just pretend it's a real store!"
And the horrors of underage liquor sales! GASP! The populations in states where private companies can sell must be destitute suffering under such dangers. Drunken teens (which are never found in Washington) are no doubt rampant in the streets of California...pillaging and causing mayhem (because, as we all know, only the state can truly oversee our children.)
Okay...rant finished. I wish I lived near a border to a FREE country state, but as you can see on the map in the video, the entire PacNW is a bastion of liquor controlled statism...at least we can feel safe.
Gonna ask my wife to stock up while she's down south in March.
THIS bit of news, which is all over the net and I even noted it on FB, stands to be exceptionally emotional...upsetting, terrifying, or perhaps hopeful. I have noticed that a number of articles have been quick to point and imply that this revelation does not apply to those with cerebral hypoxia such as in the controversial Shiavo case. However, I took the time to read the actual study paper as published, and the devil is certainly in the details: the study specifically excluded victims of hypoxia. Thus we cannot say it is not possible that this applies to them, in fact anytime I hear someone make some dogmatic statement such as: "In some cases, the damage to the brain is so severe that it is simply inconceivable they could produce any responses." I tend to wish to say: Wait and see.
Anyway...in looking at some of these brain scans I'm certainly amazed.
But what does this say about personhood? In a state where "experts" tell us "they aren't there anymore" and yet they live...where did they go?
The implications here are not easy to deal with, particularly for the poor family (Lord have mercy) who must deal with a loved one in a persistent vegetative state. But one can well imagine a time when such loved ones (even if just a lucky...or is it unlucky few?) may be able to have means of communicating their wishes and more importantly their love. Don't tell a grieving loved one they are wasting their time in spending time with someone in a coma or a PVS...there ARE in there and it would seem they may well be listening and comprehending. Love is easy to know...harder to show.